How to write a business plan in 7 steps
With this step-by-step guide, learn how to write a well-written professional business plan that can help you successfully start your business, apply for funding, and grow.
Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need to have a business or accounting degree to put together a viable business plan. Business planning can be simple—even fun!
This guide will show you how to get your plan done without any complexity or frustration. By the time you’re done, you’ll be better prepared to start, run, and grow your business. Here are the 7 steps to write a business plan:
- Executive summary
- Products & services
- Market analysis
- Marketing & sales
- Company organization and management team
- Financial projections
Be sure to download our free business plan template to start writing your own business plan as you work through this guide. For a more detailed guide to writing a business plan, download our free ebook : The Easy Way to Write Your Business Plan.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document that describes your business, the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy. How you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.
Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. Setting sales goals, expense budgets, and predictions for cash flow.
Now, a business plan can be far more than just a static document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. A management tool to analyze results, make strategic decisions, and showcase how your business will operate and grow. In short, if you’re thinking of starting a business or plan to pitch to investors or venture capitalists, writing a business plan can improve your chances of success.
Why do you need a business plan?
You likely already have a good idea of your business strategy in your head. So you may be wondering, “Why should I spend my time making a business plan?” Here are the top reasons why you should invest in planning:
Businesses that plan grow 30% faster.
A surprising amount of research has been done on business planning and has shown that companies that take the time to write a plan and review it regularly grow 30% faster than those businesses that don’t plan. Not only do these companies grow faster, but they perform better and are less likely to fail in the long run.
Lenders and investors need business plans
If you’re growing your business and plan on getting a business loan or raising money from investors, you’ll need a business plan. Most lenders and investors will ask for a plan, but even if they don’t want to see the actual document, they will ask you questions that only a solid business plan will be able to answer.
Business plans reduce risk
Starting and running a business is always risky. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, you can use a plan to forecast potential cash flow issues and get ahead of any potential roadblocks so you aren’t caught off guard. A business plan will help you reduce your risk and help you navigate the future.
Business planning helps you make smart spending decisions
Before you make a big spending decision for your business, you need to know the potential impacts on your finances. With a business plan in place, you can easily explore different scenarios and see what impacts a new hire or an expansion to a second location will have on your business.
Need more reasons for why you need a business plan? Read our full list of reasons why having a business plan is important for small businesses .
How to write a business plan step-by-step
Whether you’re building a business plan to raise money and grow your business or just need to figure out if your idea will work, every business plan needs to cover 6 essential sections. Here’s an overview of each section:
1. Executive summary
The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. Most people write it last, though.
Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. In fact, it’s very common for investors to ask for only the executive summary when they are evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation, and more in-depth financials.
Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).
Learn more about writing an effective executive summary .
2. Products & services
The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you’re solving, your solution, and how your product or service fits into the existing competitive landscape.
Start the products & services chapter by describing the problem that you are solving for your customers and what your solution is. This is a description of your product or service.
Next, you should outline your competition . Who else is providing solutions that try to solve your customers’ pain points? What are your competitive advantages over other businesses?
If you happen to have any competitive advantages, such as specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product—this chapter is a great place to talk about those things.
Finally, review your milestones and metrics. This is an overview of the next steps that you need to accomplish to get your product or service ready to sell, with target dates. If you’ve already achieved some key milestones, such as landing a crucial customer or taking on pre-orders, discuss that here.
3. Market analysis
This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You’ll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry.
First, describe your target market . Your target market is the group of people that you plan on selling to. Try to be as specific as possible. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers.
Next, provide any market analysis and market research that you have. You’ll want to explain how your market is growing over time and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of expected changes in your industry.
4. Marketing & sales
The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments, how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.
Some businesses that distribute their products and reach their customers through stores like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, grocery store chains, and other retail outlets should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles that the business may have to overcome.
The marketing & sales chapter of your business plan can also be a good place to include a SWOT analysis . This is purely optional but can be a good way to explain how your products and services are positioned to deal with competitive threats and take advantage of opportunities.
5. Company organization and management team
Investors look for great teams in addition to great ideas. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire. You will also provide a quick overview of your legal structure, location, and history if you’re already up and running.
Include brief bios that highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member. It’s important here to make the case for why the team is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before?
Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure. The most common business structures include:
- Sole proprietor
Be sure to provide a review of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.
6. Financial projections
Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. This is often what entrepreneurs find most daunting, but it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems. Business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. That said, if you need additional help, there are plenty of tools and resources out there to help you build a solid financial plan.
A typical financial plan will include:
Sales and revenue projections
A monthly sales and revenue forecast for the first 12 months, and then annual projections for the remaining three to five years. Three-year projections are typically adequate, but some investors will request a five-year forecast.
Profit and loss statement
An income statement , also known as the profit and loss (or P&L), is where your numbers all come together and show if you’re making a profit or taking a loss.
Cash flow statement
A cash flow statement . While the income statement calculates your profits and losses, the cash flow statement keeps track of how much cash (money in the bank) you have at any given point.
A balance sheet lists the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business.
Optional sections to include when seeking funding
If you are raising money from investors, you should include a brief section of your business plan that details exactly how you plan on using your investors’ cash. This is typically just called, “Use of Funds.”
Investors will also want to see a short section on your exit strategy. An exit strategy is your plan for eventually selling your business, either to another company or to the public in an IPO. If you have investors, they will want to know your thoughts on this. If you’re running a business that you plan to maintain ownership of indefinitely, and you’re not seeking angel investment or VC funding, you can skip the exit strategy section.
For more information, read our guide on the different types of exit strategies .
Finally, discuss any assumptions and important risks for your business. Knowing what your assumptions are as you start a business can make the difference between business success and business failure. When you recognize your assumptions, you can set out to prove that your assumptions are correct. The more that you can minimize your assumptions, the more likely it is that your business will succeed.
An appendix to your business plan isn’t a required chapter by any means. However, it is a useful place to stick any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that either felt too long or too out-of-place to include elsewhere in your business plan. If you have a patent or a patent-pending, or illustrations of your product, this is where you’d want to include the details. For more details, read about what to include in your business plan appendix .
Business plan writing tips
To help streamline the business plan writing process here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .
Determine why you are writing a business plan
Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. For example, if you are writing a business plan for yourself or just for use inside your own business, you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure.
If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the money you want and exactly how you’re going to use those funds. So, before you start writing your plan, think about why you are writing a business plan and what you’re trying to get out of the process.
Keep things concise
Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple . There are no prizes for long business plans. In fact, the longer your plan, the less likely it is to be read.
So, focus on trimming things down to the essentials that your readers need to know. Skip the extended descriptions of your target market and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read.
Have someone review your business plan
Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. It’s helpful to zoom out from time to time and make sure that your plan is logical and makes sense. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand. Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look, though.
Start sharing your plan early and find out from your reader what questions the plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help keep you on track. If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to give it a thorough examination.
Use a free business plan template to get started
Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template that’s been used by more than 1 million businesses.
Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 500 free sample business plans .
How do I write a simple business plan?
If you’re not ready to work on a detailed business plan and want to start with something shorter and simpler, we recommend starting with a simple one-page business plan . You’ll be able to put together an initial plan in less than 30 minutes. For many businesses, this is a great way to get started. And, if you’re not raising money from investors, this may be all the plan you need.
Next steps for writing your business plan
Whether you’re writing a plan to explore a new business idea, establishing steps to start a business, looking to raise money from investors, seeking a loan, or just trying to run your business better—a solid business plan will help get you there.
Business planning is a continuous process that can help you validate your idea, set goals, manage, and successfully pitch your business. One of the most helpful things you can do to build a successful business is to jump in and start planning. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough for writing a business plan, check out our Business Planning Guide .
If you need more than a template, we recommend exploring business planning software, such as LivePlan. It features step-by-step guidance that ensures you include only what you need in your plan and reduces the time you spend on formatting and presenting.
You’ll also get help building solid financial models that you can trust, without having to worry about getting everything right in a spreadsheet. Finally, it will transform your plan into a management tool that will help you easily compare your forecasts to your actual results. This makes it easy to track your progress and make adjustments as you go.
Business plan FAQ
A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investor, and identify areas for growth. Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.
The seven steps to writing a business plan include: 1. Write a brief executive summary. 2. Describe your products and services. 3. Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis. 4. Describe your marketing and sales strategy. 5. Outline your organizational structure and management team. 6. Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow. 7. Add any additional documents to your appendix.
There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid: 1. Not taking the planning process seriously. 2. Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information. 3. Inconsistent information or simple mistakes. 4. Failing to establish a sound business model. 5. Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.
Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan. However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan: – How will your business make money? – Is there a need for your product or service? – Who are your customers? – How are you different from the competition? – How will you reach your customers? – How will you measure success?
The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place. If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan or a 3-10 page Lean Plan to get all of the necessary information in place.
While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering. Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix. Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea. One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business. Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.
A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision. However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.
The core elements of business planning are the same for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses. The main difference between the two is that nonprofits are primarily driven by a specific mission or purpose. While a for-profit organization is typically driven by growth and improved performance. Additionally, nonprofit organizations will need to intently focus on their promotional, partnership, and fundraising strategies. While some of this is present in for-profit businesses, the need to thoroughly outline how and who you will continue to receive funding is far more important as a nonprofit.
Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. You can follow Noah on Twitter .
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How to write a business development plan: a step by step guide.
So we’ve already tackled how to write the infamous business plan , but now that you’re in the growth stage of your business – what’s next?
Many business owners will look to write a business development plan with the aim to make their business better. Running a business is never a stationary job, you constantly have to be looking to grow and improve.
But what exactly is a business development plan and how do you write one? Let’s find out.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
What Is a Business Development Plan?
How to write a business development plan, key takeaways.
A business development plan is a document put together by the business owner with the aim to grow and improve their business. The plan will set goals for growth and explain how you will achieve them.
A business development strategy can have a short-term or long-term focus, or both. They should also be constantly reviewed and revised as things shift and your goals may change.
A health plan is one that builds as your business evolves.
A standard business development strategy can be split up into 6 different sections, each one with a different aim and purpose. These sections are:
You should always be looking to grow your business. In this section, you will identify where growth will come from. For example, whether it’s new product development, adding different services or breaking into new markets. Your main business development goals should always point towards growth.
According to a U.S. Bank study, 82% of small businesses fail because of poor cash flow management and understanding. That’s why it’s vital that you have a constant eye on your funding and your bottom line.
You need to understand how you’ll fund your business development. So in this section, you should lay out your current capital, and how much more you will need to sustain growth.
3. Financial Goals
You should have a good idea of your current revenue, costs and profits. These numbers can then be used as a starting point for setting new, more ambitious revenue goals. This is for when you have expanded and developed your business.
4. Operational Needs
When growing a business, your operational needs will change. For example, what started out as a two-person job can develop into needing a whole team of people. So in this section, you will need to identify what things about your business will need to change to accommodate and promote growth.
5. Sales and Marketing
No business can succeed without a strong and stable sales team and marketing team. As your business grows, so will your sales and marketing needs. So you will need to take the time to figure out your target market and what sales and marketing efforts will promote growth. You should then put all of your focus on those efforts.
It’s vital that your sales process and marketing strategies are strong and sturdy enough to support a growing business.
6. Team Needs
Every strong business needs a strong team around it. When you started your business, it’s likely that you shouldered a lot of the jobs and responsibilities. As your business grows, you’ll soon come to realize that you can no longer do this alone.
So as a business developer, you need to think about what jobs and tasks you are best and most effective at. You should then correctly delegate the other responsibilities to the appropriate team members. This is often a good way to figure out if you have the right team around you. If you dread the thought of offloading tasks to your team, you may not have the trust in your team that you should.
Business development plans may seem like a relatively daunting task. But once you figure out the basics then they can almost write themselves.
You need to have an open mindset, a realistic approach and the ability to accept some potential failures.
Expanding and developing a business is hard work, but with the right plan in place, you are giving yourself the best chance possible.
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Write a business development plan
Now that you’re in the growth stage of your business, set things in motion with a business development plan.
A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves.
How to write a business development plan
Your business development plan is your roadmap to growth, so make it clear, specific and realistic.
What to include in a business development plan
- Opportunities for growth: Identify where growth will come from – whether it’s in creating new products, adding more services, breaking into new markets, or a combination of these.
- Funding plan: Determine how you’ll fund your business growth. How much capital do you already have? How much more do you need and how will you get it? Check out our guide on financing your business.
- Financial goals: Work out what revenue, costs and profits you’ll have if things stay the same. Use those numbers as a basis for setting new, more ambitious financial goals.
- Operational needs: Identify what things about your business will need to change in order to achieve growth. Will you need extra people, more equipment, or new suppliers?
- Sales and marketing activities: Figure out what sales and marketing efforts will effectively promote growth and how these efforts will change as the business gets bigger and better. Make sure your sales and marketing plan is sturdy enough to support your growing business.
- Team needs: You may need people to take on some of the tasks you’ve been doing. Think about what parts of running the business you enjoy most – and you’re good at – and what parts you might want to delegate to others. And give some thought to the culture you want to develop in your business as it grows. Check out our guide on hiring employees.
A sample business development plan
Avoid these common business development mistakes.
- Thinking short-term instead of long-term
- Underestimating how much money it will take to grow
- Not budgeting enough money to cover the costs of growth
- Focusing on too many growth opportunities: think quality, not quantity
Micro-planning can keep you focused
You may want to create some micro-plans for specific growth projects so their details don’t get overlooked. And you can build in some KPIs to measure your progress and successes. As your business grows, take note of your progress and make periodic adjustments to your business development plan to make sure it’s still relevant.
Support is out there
Remember you’re not the first to go through this. Seek out mentors, advisors or other business owners who can help you with your planning. Your accountant or bookkeeper may also be able to help or point you in the direction of the right people.
Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.
Growing your business
Are you ready to drop the hammer and take your business to the next level? Let’s look at how to grow.
Before you leap into growth, reflect on where you’ve come from. Find out the stage of business growth you’re at.
Understanding your business performance will help you grow. Check out common examples of small business KPIs.
Increasing sales revenue is one obvious way to help grow your business. But how do you sell more?
You can grow your business by selling more things to more people, or fewer things to fewer people. Let’s look at how.
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How To Start A Business In 11 Steps (2023 Guide)
Updated: Mar 3, 2023, 6:43am
Table of Contents
Before you begin: get in the right mindset, 1. determine your business concept, 2. research your competitors and market, 3. create your business plan, 4. choose your business structure, 5. register your business and get licenses, 6. get your finances in order, 7. fund your business, 8. apply for business insurance, 9. get the right business tools, 10. market your business, 11. scale your business, what are the best states to start a business, bottom line, frequently asked questions (faqs).
Starting a business is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences you can have. But where do you begin? There are several ways to approach creating a business, with many important considerations. To help take the guesswork out of the process and improve your chances of success, follow our comprehensive guide on how to start a business. We’ll walk you through each step of the process, from defining your business idea to registering, launching and growing your business.
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The public often hears about overnight successes because they make for a great headline. However, it’s rarely that simple—they don’t see the years of dreaming, building and positioning before a big public launch. For this reason, remember to focus on your business journey and don’t measure your success against someone else’s.
Consistency Is Key
New business owners tend to feed off their motivation initially but get frustrated when that motivation wanes. This is why it’s essential to create habits and follow routines that power you through when motivation goes away.
Take the Next Step
Some business owners dive in headfirst without looking and make things up as they go along. Then, there are business owners who stay stuck in analysis paralysis and never start. Perhaps you’re a mixture of the two—and that’s right where you need to be. The best way to accomplish any business or personal goal is to write out every possible step it takes to achieve the goal. Then, order those steps by what needs to happen first. Some steps may take minutes while others take a long time. The point is to always take the next step.
Most business advice tells you to monetize what you love, but it misses two other very important elements: it needs to be profitable and something you’re good at. For example, you may love music, but how viable is your business idea if you’re not a great singer or songwriter? Maybe you love making soap and want to open a soap shop in your small town that already has three close by—it won’t be easy to corner the market when you’re creating the same product as other nearby stores.
If you don’t have a firm idea of what your business will entail, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you love to do?
- What do you hate to do?
- Can you think of something that would make those things easier?
- What are you good at?
- What do others come to you for advice about?
- If you were given ten minutes to give a five-minute speech on any topic, what would it be?
- What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but lacked resources for?
These questions can lead you to an idea for your business. If you already have an idea, they might help you expand it. Once you have your idea, measure it against whether you’re good at it and if it’s profitable.
Your business idea also doesn’t have to be the next Scrub Daddy or Squatty Potty. Instead, you can take an existing product and improve upon it. Or, you can sell a digital product so there’s little overhead.
What Kind of Business Should You Start?
Before you choose the type of business to start, there are some key things to consider:
- What type of funding do you have?
- How much time do you have to invest in your business?
- Do you prefer to work from home or at an office or workshop?
- What interests and passions do you have?
- Can you sell information (such as a course), rather than a product?
- What skills or expertise do you have?
- How fast do you need to scale your business?
- What kind of support do you have to start your business?
- Are you partnering with someone else?
- Does the franchise model make more sense to you?
Consider Popular Business Ideas
Not sure what business to start? Consider one of these popular business ideas:
- Start a Franchise
- Start a Blog
- Start an Online Store
- Start a Dropshipping Business
- Start a Cleaning Business
- Start a Bookkeeping Business
- Start a Clothing Business
- Start a Landscaping Business
- Start a Consulting Business
- Start a Photography Business
- Start a Vending Machine Business
Most entrepreneurs spend more time on their products than they do getting to know the competition. If you ever apply for outside funding, the potential lender or partner wants to know: what sets you (or your business idea) apart? If market analysis indicates your product or service is saturated in your area, see if you can think of a different approach. Take housekeeping, for example—rather than general cleaning services, you might specialize in homes with pets or focus on garage cleanups.
The first stage of any competition study is primary research, which entails obtaining data directly from potential customers rather than basing your conclusions on past data. You can use questionnaires, surveys and interviews to learn what consumers want. Surveying friends and family isn’t recommended unless they’re your target market. People who say they’d buy something and people who do are very different. The last thing you want is to take so much stock in what they say, create the product and flop when you try to sell it because all of the people who said they’d buy it don’t because the product isn’t something they’d actually buy.
Utilize existing sources of information, such as census data, to gather information when you do secondary research. The current data may be studied, compiled and analyzed in various ways that are appropriate for your needs but it may not be as detailed as primary research.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Conducting a SWOT analysis allows you to look at the facts about how your product or idea might perform if taken to market, and it can also help you make decisions about the direction of your idea. Your business idea might have some weaknesses that you hadn’t considered or there may be some opportunities to improve on a competitor’s product.
Asking pertinent questions during a SWOT analysis can help you identify and address weaknesses before they tank your new business.
A business plan is a dynamic document that serves as a roadmap for establishing a new business. This document makes it simple for potential investors, financial institutions and company management to understand and absorb. Even if you intend to self-finance, a business plan can help you flesh out your idea and spot potential problems. When writing a well-rounded business plan, include the following sections:
- Executive summary: The executive summary should be the first item in the business plan, but it should be written last. It describes the proposed new business and highlights the goals of the company and the methods to achieve them.
- Company description: The company description covers what problems your product or service solves and why your business or idea is best. For example, maybe your background is in molecular engineering, and you’ve used that background to create a new type of athletic wear—you have the proper credentials to make the best material.
- Market analysis: This section of the business plan analyzes how well a company is positioned against its competitors. The market analysis should include target market, segmentation analysis, market size, growth rate, trends and a competitive environment assessment.
- Organization and structure: Write about the type of business organization you expect, what risk management strategies you propose and who will staff the management team. What are their qualifications? Will your business be a single-member limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation ?
- Mission and goals: This section should contain a brief mission statement and detail what the business wishes to accomplish and the steps to get there. These goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, action-orientated, realistic and time-bound).
- Products or services: This section describes how your business will operate. It includes what products you’ll offer to consumers at the beginning of the business, how they compare to existing competitors, how much your products cost, who will be responsible for creating the products, how you’ll source materials and how much they cost to make.
- Background summary: This portion of the business plan is the most time-consuming to write. Compile and summarize any data, articles and research studies on trends that could positively and negatively affect your business or industry.
- Marketing plan: The marketing plan identifies the characteristics of your product or service, summarizes the SWOT analysis and analyzes competitors. It also discusses how you’ll promote your business, how much money will be spent on marketing and how long the campaign is expected to last.
- Financial plan: The financial plan is perhaps the core of the business plan because, without money, the business will not move forward. Include a proposed budget in your financial plan along with projected financial statements, such as an income statement, a balance sheet and a statement of cash flows. Usually, five years of projected financial statements are acceptable. This section is also where you should include your funding request if you’re looking for outside funding.
Learn more: Download our free simple business plan template .
Come Up With an Exit Strategy
An exit strategy is important for any business that is seeking funding because it outlines how you’ll sell the company or transfer ownership if you decide to retire or move on to other projects. An exit strategy also allows you to get the most value out of your business when it’s time to sell. There are a few different options for exiting a business, and the best option for you depends on your goals and circumstances.
The most common exit strategies are:
- Selling the business to another party
- Passing the business down to family members
- Liquidating the business assets
- Closing the doors and walking away
Develop a Scalable Business Model
As your small business grows, it’s important to have a scalable business model so that you can accommodate additional customers without incurring additional costs. A scalable business model is one that can be replicated easily to serve more customers without a significant increase in expenses.
Some common scalable business models are:
- Subscription-based businesses
- Businesses that sell digital products
- Franchise businesses
- Network marketing businesses
Start Planning for Taxes
One of the most important things to do when starting a small business is to start planning for taxes. Taxes can be complex, and there are several different types of taxes you may be liable for, including income tax, self-employment tax, sales tax and property tax. Depending on the type of business you’re operating, you may also be required to pay other taxes, such as payroll tax or unemployment tax.
When structuring your business, it’s essential to consider how each structure impacts the amount of taxes you owe, daily operations and whether your personal assets are at risk.
An LLC limits your personal liability for business debts. LLCs can be owned by one or more people or companies and must include a registered agent . These owners are referred to as members.
- LLCs offer liability protection for the owners
- They’re one of the easiest business entities to set up
- You can have a single-member LLC
- You may be required to file additional paperwork with your state on a regular basis
- LLCs can’t issue stock
- You’ll need to pay annual filing fees to your state
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
An LLP is similar to an LLC but is typically used for licensed business professionals such as an attorney or accountant. These arrangements require a partnership agreement.
- Partners have limited liability for the debts and actions of the LLP
- LLPs are easy to form and don’t require much paperwork
- There’s no limit to the number of partners in an LLP
- Partners are required to actively take part in the business
- LLPs can’t issue stock
- All partners are personally liable for any malpractice claims against the business
If you start a solo business, you might consider a sole proprietorship . The company and the owner, for legal and tax purposes, are considered the same. The business owner assumes liability for the business. So, if the business fails, the owner is personally and financially responsible for all business debts.
- Sole proprietorships are easy to form
- There’s no need to file additional paperwork with your state
- You’re in complete control of the business
- You’re personally liable for all business debts
- It can be difficult to raise money for a sole proprietorship
- The business may have a limited life span
A corporation limits your personal liability for business debts just as an LLC does. A corporation can be taxed as a C-corporation (C-corp) or an S-corporation (S-corp). S-corp status offers pass-through taxation to small corporations that meet certain IRS requirements. Larger companies and startups hoping to attract venture capital are usually taxed as C-corps.
- Corporations offer liability protection for the owners
- The life span of a corporation is not limited
- A corporation can have an unlimited number of shareholders
- Corporations are subject to double taxation
- They’re more expensive and complicated to set up than other business structures
- The shareholders may have limited liability
Before you decide on a business structure, discuss your situation with a small business accountant and possibly an attorney, as each business type has different tax treatments that could affect your bottom line.
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There are several legal issues to address when starting a business after choosing the business structure. The following is a good checklist of items to consider when establishing your business:
Choose Your Business Name
Make it memorable but not too difficult. Choose the same domain name, if available, to establish your internet presence. A business name cannot be the same as another registered company in your state, nor can it infringe on another trademark or service mark that is already registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Business Name vs. DBA
There are business names, and then there are fictitious business names known as “Doing Business As” or DBA. You may need to file a DBA if you’re operating under a name that’s different from the legal name of your business. For example, “Mike’s Bike Shop” is doing business as “Mike’s Bikes.” The legal name of the business is “Mike’s Bike Shop,” and “Mike’s Bikes” is the DBA.
You may need to file a DBA with your state, county or city government offices. The benefits of a DBA include:
- It can help you open a business bank account under your business name
- A DBA can be used as a “trade name” to brand your products or services
- A DBA can be used to get a business license
Register Your Business and Obtain an EIN
You’ll officially create a corporation, LLC or other business entity by filing forms with your state’s business agency―usually the Secretary of State. As part of this process, you’ll need to choose a registered agent to accept legal documents on behalf of your business. You’ll also pay a filing fee. The state will send you a certificate that you can use to apply for licenses, a tax identification number (TIN) and business bank accounts.
Next, apply for an employer identification number (EIN) . All businesses, other than sole proprietorships with no employees, must have a federal employer identification number. Submit your application to the IRS and you’ll typically receive your number in minutes.
Get Appropriate Licenses and Permits
Legal requirements are determined by your industry and jurisdiction. Most businesses need a mixture of local, state and federal licenses to operate. Check with your local government office (and even an attorney) for licensing information tailored to your area.
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Open a Business Bank Account
Keep your business and personal finances separate. Here’s how to choose a business checking account —and why separate business accounts are essential. When you open a business bank account, you’ll need to provide your business name and your business tax identification number (EIN). This business bank account can be used for your business transactions, such as paying suppliers or invoicing customers. Most times, a bank will require a separate business bank account in order to issue a business loan or line of credit.
Hire a Bookkeeper or Get Accounting Software
If you sell a product, you need an inventory function in your accounting software to manage and track inventory. The software should have ledger and journal entries and the ability to generate financial statements.
Some software programs double as bookkeeping tools. These often include features such as check writing and managing receivables and payables. You can also use this software to track your income and expenses, generate invoices, run reports and calculate taxes.
There are many bookkeeping services available that can do all of this for you, and more. These services can be accessed online from any computer or mobile device and often include features such as bank reconciliation and invoicing. Check out the best accounting software for small business, or see if you want to handle the bookkeeping yourself.
Determine Your Break-Even Point
Before you fund your business, you must get an idea of your startup costs. To determine these, make a list of all the physical supplies you need, estimate the cost of any professional services you will require, determine the price of any licenses or permits required to operate and calculate the cost of office space or other real estate. Add in the costs of payroll and benefits, if applicable.
Businesses can take years to turn a profit, so it’s better to overestimate the startup costs and have too much money than too little. Many experts recommend having enough cash on hand to cover six months of operating expenses.
When you know how much you need to get started with your business, you need to know the point at which your business makes money. This figure is your break-even point.
In contrast, the contribution margin = total sales revenue – cost to make product
For example, let’s say you’re starting a small business that sells miniature birdhouses for fairy gardens. You have determined that it will cost you $500 in startup costs. Your variable costs are $0.40 per birdhouse produced, and you sell them for $1.50 each.
Let’s write these out so it’s easy to follow:
This means that you need to sell at least 456 units just to cover your costs. If you can sell more than 456 units in your first month, you will make a profit.
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There are many different ways to fund your business—some require considerable effort, while others are easier to obtain. Two categories of funding exist: internal and external.
Internal funding includes:
- Personal savings
- Credit cards
- Funds from friends and family
If you finance the business with your own funds or with credit cards, you have to pay the debt on the credit cards and you’ve lost a chunk of your wealth if the business fails. By allowing your family members or friends to invest in your business, you are risking hard feelings and strained relationships if the company goes under. Business owners who want to minimize these risks may consider external funding.
External funding includes:
- Small business loans
- Small business grants
- Angel investors
- Venture capital
Small businesses may have to use a combination of several sources of capital. Consider how much money is needed, how long it will take before the company can repay it and how risk-tolerant you are. No matter which source you use, plan for profit. It’s far better to take home six figures than make seven figures and only keep $80,000 of it.
Funding ideas include:
- Invoice factoring: With invoice factoring , you can sell your unpaid invoices to a third party at a discount.
- Business lines of credit: Apply for a business line of credit , which is similar to a personal line of credit. The credit limit and interest rate will be based on your business’s revenue, credit score and financial history.
- Equipment financing: If you need to purchase expensive equipment for your business, you can finance it with a loan or lease.
- Small Business Administration (SBA) microloans: Microloans are up to $50,000 loans that can be used for working capital, inventory or supplies and machinery or equipment.
- Grants: The federal government offers grants for businesses that promote innovation, export growth or are located in historically disadvantaged areas. You can also find grants through local and regional organizations.
- Crowdfunding: With crowdfunding , you can raise money from a large group of people by soliciting donations or selling equity in your company.
Choose the right funding source for your business by considering the amount of money you need, the time frame for repayment and your tolerance for risk.
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You need to have insurance for your business , even if it’s a home-based business or you don’t have any employees. The type of insurance you need depends on your business model and what risks you face. You might need more than one type of policy, and you might need additional coverage as your business grows. In most states, workers’ compensation insurance is required by law if you have employees.
Work With an Agent To Get Insured
An insurance agent can help determine what coverages are appropriate for your business and find policies from insurers that offer the best rates. An independent insurance agent represents several different insurers, so they can shop around for the best rates and coverage options.
Basic Types of Business Insurance Coverage
- Liability insurance protects your business against third-party claims of bodily injury, property damage and personal injury such as defamation or false advertising.
- Property insurance covers the physical assets of your business, including your office space, equipment and inventory.
- Business interruption insurance pays for the loss of income if your business is forced to close temporarily due to a covered event such as a natural disaster.
- Product liability insurance protects against claims that your products caused bodily injury or property damage.
- Employee practices liability insurance covers claims from employees alleging discrimination, sexual harassment or other wrongful termination.
- Workers’ compensation insurance covers medical expenses and income replacement for employees who are injured on the job.
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Business tools can help make your life easier and make your business run more smoothly. The right tools can help you save time, automate tasks and make better decisions.
Consider the following tools in your arsenal:
- Accounting software : Track your business income and expenses, prepare financial statements and file taxes. Examples include QuickBooks and FreshBooks.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software : This will help you manage your customer relationships, track sales and marketing data and automate tasks like customer service and follow-ups. Examples include Zoho CRM and monday.com.
- Project management software : Plan, execute and track projects. It can also be used to manage employee tasks and allocate resources. Examples include Airtable and ClickUp.
- Credit card processor : This will allow you to accept credit card payments from customers. Examples include Stripe and PayPal.
- Point of sale (POS) : A system that allows you to process customer payments. Some accounting software and CRM software have POS features built-in. Examples include Clover and Lightspeed.
- Virtual private network (VPN) : Provides a secure, private connection between your computer and the internet. This is important for businesses that handle sensitive data. Examples include NordVPN and ExpressVPN.
- Merchant services : When customers make a purchase, the money is deposited into your business account. You can also use merchant services to set up recurring billing or subscription payments. Examples include Square and Stripe.
- Email hosting : This allows you to create a professional email address with your own domain name. Examples include G Suite and Microsoft Office 365.
Many business owners spend so much money creating their products that there isn’t a marketing budget by the time they’ve launched. Alternatively, they’ve spent so much time developing the product that marketing is an afterthought.
Create a Website
Even if you’re a brick-and-mortar business, a web presence is essential. Creating a website doesn’t take long, either—you can have one done in as little as a weekend. You can make a standard informational website or an e-commerce site where you sell products online. If you sell products or services offline, include a page on your site where customers can find your locations and hours. Other pages to add include an “About Us” page, product or service pages, frequently asked questions (FAQs), a blog and contact information.
Optimize Your Site for SEO
After getting a website or e-commerce store, focus on optimizing it for search engines (SEO). This way, when a potential customer searches for specific keywords for your products, the search engine can point them to your site. SEO is a long-term strategy, so don’t expect a ton of traffic from search engines initially—even if you’re using all the right keywords.
Create Relevant Content
Provide quality digital content on your site that makes it easy for customers to find the correct answers to their questions. Content marketing ideas include videos, customer testimonials, blog posts and demos. Consider content marketing one of the most critical tasks on your daily to-do list. This is used in conjunction with posting on social media.
Get Listed in Online Directories
Customers use online directories like Yelp, Google My Business and Facebook to find local businesses. Some city halls and chambers of commerce have business directories too. Include your business in as many relevant directories as possible. You can also create listings for your business on specific directories that focus on your industry.
Develop a Social Media Strategy
Your potential customers are using social media every day—you need to be there too. Post content that’s interesting and relevant to your audience. Use social media to drive traffic back to your website where customers can learn more about what you do and buy your products or services.
You don’t necessarily need to be on every social media platform available. However, you should have a presence on Facebook and Instagram because they offer e-commerce features that allow you to sell directly from your social media accounts. Both of these platforms have free ad training to help you market your business.
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To scale your business, you need to grow your customer base and revenue. This can be done by expanding your marketing efforts, improving your product or service, collaborating with other creators or adding new products or services that complement what you already offer.
Think about ways you can automate or outsource certain tasks so you can focus on scaling the business. For example, if social media marketing is taking up too much of your time, consider using a platform such as Hootsuite to help you manage your accounts more efficiently. You can also consider outsourcing the time-consumer completely.
You can also use technology to automate certain business processes, including accounting, email marketing and lead generation. Doing this will give you more time to focus on other aspects of your business.
When scaling your business, it’s important to keep an eye on your finances and make sure you’re still profitable. If you’re not making enough money to cover your costs, you need to either reduce your expenses or find ways to increase your revenue.
Build a Team
As your business grows, you’ll need to delegate tasks and put together a team of people who can help you run the day-to-day operations. This might include hiring additional staff, contractors or freelancers.
Resources for building a team include:
- Hiring platforms: To find the right candidates, hiring platforms, such as Indeed and Glassdoor, can help you post job descriptions, screen résumés and conduct video interviews.
- Job boards: Job boards such as Craigslist and Indeed allow you to post open positions for free.
- Social media: You can also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find potential employees.
- Freelance platforms: Using Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr can help you find talented freelancers for one-time or short-term projects. You can also outsource certain tasks, such as customer service, social media marketing or bookkeeping.
You might also consider partnering with other businesses in your industry. For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you could partner with a florist, photographer, catering company or venue. This way, you can offer your customers a one-stop shop for all their wedding needs. Another example is an e-commerce store that partners with a fulfillment center. This type of partnership can help you save money on shipping and storage costs, and it can also help you get your products to your customers faster.
To find potential partnerships, search for businesses in your industry that complement what you do. For example, if you’re a web designer, you could partner with a digital marketing agency.
You can also search for businesses that serve the same target market as you but offer different products or services. For example, if you sell women’s clothing, you could partner with a jewelry store or a hair salon.
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To rank the best states to start a business in 2023, Forbes Advisor analyzed 18 key metrics across five categories to determine which states are the best and worst to start a business in. Our ranking takes into consideration factors that impact businesses and their ability to succeed, such as business costs, business climate, economy, workforce and financial accessibility in each state. Check out the full report .
Starting a small business takes time, effort and perseverance. But if you’re willing to put in the work, it can be a great way to achieve your dreams and goals. Be sure to do your research, create a solid business plan and pivot along the way. Once you’re operational, don’t forget to stay focused and organized so you can continue to grow your business.
How do I start a small business with no money?
There are several funding sources for brand new businesses and most require a business plan to secure it. These include the SBA , private grants, angel investors, crowdfunding and venture capital.
What is the best business structure?
The best business structure for your business will depend entirely on what kind of company you form, your industry and what you want to accomplish. But any successful business structure will be one that will help your company set realistic goals and follow through on set tasks.
Do I need a business credit card?
You don’t need one, but a business credit card can be helpful for new small businesses. It allows you to start building business credit, which can help you down the road when you need to take out a loan or line of credit. Additionally, business credit cards often come with rewards and perks that can save you money on business expenses.
Do I need a special license or permit to start a small business?
The answer to this question will depend on the type of business you want to start and where you’re located. Some businesses, such as restaurants, will require a special permit or license to operate. Others, such as home daycare providers, may need to register with the state.
How much does it cost to create a business?
The cost of starting a business will vary depending on the size and type of company you want to create. For example, a home-based business will be less expensive to start than a brick-and-mortar store. Additionally, the cost of starting a business will increase if you need to rent or buy commercial space, hire employees or purchase inventory. You could potentially get started for free by dropshipping or selling digital goods.
How do I get a loan for a new business?
The best way to get a loan for a new business is to approach banks or other financial institutions and provide them with a business plan and your financial history. You can also look into government-backed loans, such as those offered by the SBA. Startups may also be able to get loans from alternative lenders, including online platforms such as Kiva.
Do I need a business degree to start a business?
No, you don’t need a business degree to start a business. However, acquiring a degree in business or a related field can provide you with the understanding and ability to run an effective company. Additionally, you may want to consider taking some business courses if you don’t have a degree in order to learn more about starting and running a business. You can find these online and at your local Small Business Administration office.
What are some easy businesses to start?
One of the easiest businesses to start also has the lowest overhead: selling digital goods. This can include items such as e-books, online courses, audio files or software. If you have expertise in a particular area or niche, this is a great option for you. Dropshipping is also a great option because you don’t have to keep inventory. Or, you could buy wholesale products or create your own. Once you create your product, you can sell it through your own website or third-party platforms such as Amazon or Etsy.
What is the most profitable type of business?
There is no one answer to this question because the most profitable type of business will vary depending on a number of factors, such as your industry, location, target market and business model. However, some businesses tend to be more profitable than others, such as luxury goods, high-end services, business-to-business companies and subscription-based businesses. If you’re not sure what type of business to start, consider your strengths and interests, as well as the needs of your target market, to help you choose a profitable business idea.
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Kathy Haan, MBA is a former financial advisor-turned-writer and business coach. For over a decade, she’s helped small business owners make money online. When she’s not trying out the latest tech or travel blogging with her family, you can find her curling up with a good novel.
Business development plan: A step-by-step approach
by Lucia Piseddu | Jan 16, 2023
A good business development plan can set you up for success. Learn how to create your own from scratch with zero experience!
If you’re just starting with business development , chances are that you’re a little confused about how you should do it. I got lost many times during my entrepreneurial journey. One of those moments was when I had to write a business development plan for the first time.
Now, the main problem was that I didn’t have a clue about what a business development plan was to start with. And of course, when I started digging, I got even more confused. I found a lot of information online, but nothing that would tell me how to do it step-by-step.
So after some years of trying and failing, I finally found my way to deal with it and build my own business development plan.
Below I’ll explain how to write a business development plan and what information you should include in practical terms. But first, let’s define what a business development plan is.
What is a business development plan?
A business development plan is a document that helps you implement your business development strategy in a step-by-step method. It involves a lot of research on the market and customers. But also, other aspects such as your competitors and buyer persona.
So, a business development plan is a detailed summary of important steps you’re going to take to grow your business. One key aspect to remember is that a business development plan is a LIVING document. This means that you have to update your plan continuously based on new information about your ecosystem.
This helps you strategize better, but also ensures that it’s a document of quality insights.
A business development plan is divided into two main parts:
- Research: in the research phase, you learn more about your market, customers, and competitors.
- Action: you use your research and put it into action. Specifically, this translates into creating a value proposition, and content, and experimenting with ideas.
Step 1: Organize your business development plan
I’m a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis.
It doesn’t have to contain every piece of information. Keep it simple by including only essential and key facts that will help you build an effective business development machine. Your business development plan needs to be easily accessible and quick to consult.
In this sense, you don’t need to get fancy and start looking for the latest software that promises you great time savings. Stick to something basic yet powerful. Google Sheets is your best ally when it comes to your business development plan.
So, the main goal of a business development plan is to keep information structured so that you can spot growth opportunities easier.
Step 2: Market research
Market research is a stepping stone in a business development plan. It’s an activity to gather more information about customers’ preferences and needs. Many companies overlook this step thinking that their intuition will guide them through their challenges. Intuition can be helpful, but it’s still essential to know your customers better using research and data.
After all, most ideas start off from intuition. However, basing an entire plan on assumptions is never a smart strategy to use in business development. So, do your homework and make sure you always take educated guesses before starting to work on your business development plan.
Market research takes into account 3 variables . These will tell you the realistic size of the market you’re trying to target.
1 – Total Addressable Market or Total Available Market (TAM)
The TAM takes into account the entire market you’re operating in and basically tells you how much annual revenue there is available for your product or service.
Now, finding this information can be the first bummer. To me at least, it sounded quite impossible to find out. Later, I figured that there are many people out there that dedicate their life only to market research.
You can use Google to find out this information. But of course, you first need to know what you’re looking for. The information you need, in this case, is basically knowing how many companies or people would benefit from your product or service.
You also want to know how many companies operate in your exact space both in terms of services and geography. To get relevant market news, try Googling “your industry market trends”, “your market report”, or “your industry report”.
Many big consultancy groups and governmental institutions dedicate a lot of time to this type of research. It’s a good and reliable starting point.
PRO TIP: Choose your sources very carefully. You’ll find a lot of random information, learn to filter out what you’re reading.
2 – Total Served Market (TSM)
Once you know how big your market is, you need to check how much of it is already served by your competitors.
In this case, the information you’re looking for is all about your competition. You should ask yourself first how many of them you have.
Then you need to find out how well they’re doing and start hunting for as much intelligence as possible.
The info you need to look for is how many clients your competitors claim to have, what revenue they generate, and where they are present.
First, Google keywords to identify your competitors. Right after that, you can start digging deeper into their websites and find detailed info.
Bigger competitors will most likely have good press coverage. Read these articles to gather more insight.
Last, don’t overlook the importance of customer review websites. Customers can uncover many relevant details that your competitors don’t want to reveal. And of course, make use of technology to make the most out of your research.
3 – Serviceable Obtainable Market (SOM)
The last step in your market research is to quantify how much you can realistically obtain with your business development effort.
Your SOM is your share in the market. So, to put it simply, it’s not possible to have an entire market buy only your products and services. There is a specific customer base that will buy from your company. So, your SOM refers to your market share and the people that can become your customers if they see a benefit from your products or services.
SOM takes into account your brand awareness, market insights, but also competition. It helps you forecast potential earnings and also gain customers. Based on the research, you become aware of what your competitors are offering to the market. Moreover, you will be able to tailor your products and services to meet the needs and preferences of your customers.
Step 3: Competitor analysis
The third step to do when creating your business development plan is to do a competitor analysis . So far, I discussed market research and how it helps you get to know the preferences of your target audience better. But, to grow your business sustainably and profitably, it’s vital that you analyze your competitors as well.
First, figure out who your direct and indirect competitors are. So, in a Google search, we try to identify or find the ID of each company that competes in your market. This can be found in the website’s ‘About us’ section. Then, the aim is to find key personalities such as managers and executives, and so on.
Once you have this information, you can move on to products and services. You can find this on your competitor’s website as well. This specific section defines what the company specializes in. You can use this information to compare your products to those of your competitors and try to find ways to improve them.
Continue by checking their clients, and the pricing they offer for their products and services.
PRO TIP: Read the customer reviews of your competitors to spot their strengths and weaknesses. Use the insights to improve your offer.
Step 4: Customer research
After identifying your market share, you can start thinking of what kind of customers within this segment, you are trying to sell your products and services to.
The best way to tackle this is by running proper customer research that will provide you with your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Persona.
This is the part I like the most because it really helps you understand who you’re talking to. But how do you do it? First, if you already have some customers, start analyzing them. You want to gather more information on who they are, what they do, and their habitual traits.
- What job titles do these people have?
- How old are they?
- What communication tools do they use?
- Where do they hang out?
- What are their personalities like?
- What are their challenges?
- What do they do in their daily lives?
You can find all this info by simply checking social media profiles. Really, just by observing their social media platforms, you can get to know them in-depth! Take some time to check a few ones (at least 10) and you’re going to start seeing patterns.
Then, check some job descriptions about the people you’re targeting. This will highlight what are their professional responsibilities and how your product or service can help them. Last, it’s always advisable to run a survey.
Step 5: Build your Buyer Persona
Right after having run your customer research, you can now create your buyer persona.
The buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on data and research,
In your buyer persona, you need to include all the relevant information you found through your customer research. It should look like something below:
Step 6: Value Propositions
The customer research concludes the research part of your business development plan. Now it’s time to put your insights into action and start building your business development strategy .
The first valuable asset you need to build is a value proposition .
A value proposition is the value your customers get should they choose to buy your products and services
The value proposition helps you communicate your value as a company and you can use it on your website, sales calls, social media posts, etc. Having a clear value proposition will help you attract the right audience and persuade potential customers to work with you.
Of course, a good value proposition is based on that, and if you followed all the steps, you should have all the insights you need.
To build a value proposition we will use the Job-To-Be-Done framework. This helps you identify what are the responsibilities of your buyer persona when they’re doing their job.
For example, a typical responsibility for a recruiter is to find the right talent .
Second, consider the pains and gains of your customers. Customers’ emotions are usually the reason behind their buying decisions. They influence their preferences, frequency of buying, and also which companies they buy from.
Especially the challenges are a crucial element in your value proposition because you can immediately link your solution to a concrete pain that your customers are facing.
For example, let’s go back to the example of the recruiter. We know that one main responsibility of a recruiter is to find talent. One major challenge for recruiters is to have enough time to process all the CVs they receive daily.
Now, let’s assume you work for a company that provides recruitment software that can automate CV screening.
A good value proposition, in this case, would sound like this:
Save 70% of your CV screening time using our recruitment software
Step 7: Content plan
Once you have your value proposition, the next step is to share it with your target audience. That’s when having a content plan becomes a must.
A content plan helps you strategize the type of information you want to feed your audience. It also helps you select the channels on which you should build your presence.
For content to be effective, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience when you write posts/emails, or articles. So, always consult your buyer persona before creating content.
Just like the value propositions, effective content revolves around the pain point you identified earlier. Use them to get the attention of your audience and provide valuable information that helps them alleviate these pains.
This will help you establish yourself as a valuable resource and when they will want to solve their issues, you’ll be the first to pop into their minds.
Step 8: Experiments
The last step in your business development plan is all about creativity and finding opportunities. This is the moment in which we create experiments to validate some of our business assumptions. Your experiment should be ideas that you think will bring sustainable growth to your company.
Once you identify some ideas, define some goals and set up the methodology you will follow to run this experiment. For example, if you heard of a new social media and you think your audience might be on it, build an experiment to validate if this is true and if it can bring you results.
Attach a goal to this idea, for example, generating 10 qualified leads on this new channel.
Then decide for how long you will run the experiment – ideally a couple of weeks. Once the experiment is over analyze what happened. If the experiment was successful, you need to scale this activity. If not, take the learnings for further improvements.
The business development plan is a key document that helps you map your ecosystem and strategize your business development efforts.
It consists of a research part and an action part. In the first part, you analyze your market, competitors, and customers. In the second, you use your insights to build value propositions, content plans, and experiments.
The business development plan is a live document, so you have to update it every time you have new insights. Of course, you have to use it in your daily operations to make sure you’re on the right track.
The business development plan is one of the assets you will build during our training. Would you like to shake up your business development career and work in a more structured way? Then join our next cohort .
If you are a startup founder check out the startup program , specifically designed to help you take your business from good to great.
Last, if you are a company wanting to train your business development team, our custom training solutions are the best way to take your team to the next level.
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7 Steps to Develop a Successful Business Plan
Most people who spend a little time searching on the Internet or in a bookstore can quickly find a guide on how to write a business plan . However, just following these templates doesn’t guarantee that the business plan produce will be successful or even good. A successful business plan needs quite a bit more to actually be useful and even more to be functional and successful. As the elements come together, if done correctly, the most important component of success will come from the business owner and leadership versus the company itself.
Your business plan needs seven specific elements that will make it stand out beyond just the basic pile of applications and home printer documents everyone regularly sees.
If your company is going to run a viable business plan and investors are going to put their money into it, your information has to be top notch. And that includes knowing every topic involved , not just your internal operations. Research and critical analysis are key to developing and communicating a business plan properly. The information used has to be relevant, valuable, and objective. However, you’re not writing a novel, so the presentation also needs to be concise. That means choosing the right research to include versus just a brain dump of anything about the company’s situation.
2. Have a Purpose
What is your business plan being written for? A road map on how to operate? An investor or loan pitch? Both? A historical document? The purpose has to be clear and definitive. If you don’t know why you’re writing a business plan, the effort will be a waste of time. Knowing also means having a target audience you expect the plan to be ready by. With both defined, it will help dictate what information is included and how.
3. Craft a Company Snapshot
Some people call it a company profile, others a snapshot. Either way, your business plan needs a section that gives a reader a clear view of what your company is, does and provides in a few paragraphs. This should be the same information that one would find if they looked on the business’ website. It’s designed to be quick and digestible mentally because it needs to stick in a reader’s mind quickly, especially as more information is provided later in the plan. If the reader remembers nothing else, he or she will have the profile well entrenched in memory. And that matters when your plan is being considered with others.
4. Detail the Company in Total
Some folks write their business plan to only highlight what they think are the selling points and good features of their venture. That’s a mistake. Most readers have a pretty good idea where the company sits in the big picture. Detail the company’s status in full, good and bad. And where there are weaknesses, include plans on how they will be addressed given the right support. Details should also include key features like patents, licenses, copyrights and unique strengths no one else has.
5. Write the Marketing Plan Beforehand
A simple mistake made by most startups is that people think they can write a business plan without knowing first how something is going to be sold . A strategic marketing plan is essential; it shows how your product or service is going to be delivered, communicated and sold to customers. It covers where, when and how much, all the key pieces that later on feed into the financial statement projections in the business plan. No surprise, marketing has to be nailed down before planning out the rest of the business.
6. Be Willing to Change the Plan for Your Audience
Another common mistake folks often make is writing only one business plan. The document given to a lender is going to be very different than the one for internal direction. Smart startups have multiple versions, just like candidates have multiple resumes for different prospective employers. Match the plan and message to the audience you are addressing.
7. Include Your Motivation
This is the most important piece in a successful plan – your motivation and goals. Why are you going through all this effort, work, sweat and effort? Your motivation needs to be a reason that will convince people the business will succeed, through thick and thin. A business needs a mission that drives it, not just selling to make money. Your motivation defined in the business plan is that mission.
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Business Development Plan: What is it & How to Create a Perfect One?
As a business owner, you obviously want to expand your business and increase your network.
But the question is, how to get started on it?
It’s simple! A business development plan is the first step you need to take.
A business development plan is much more than a piece of document. It is what defines your current positioning and helps you devise and implement a strategic plan.
That, in turn, doesn’t just bring in sales, but also goodwill and long-term relations with your stakeholders.
Having a business development plan is like living a healthy lifestyle – it will only offer great things in return but it does demand a little effort and time.
Whereas, a business with no such plan is bound to misplace time, energy and suppress its growth.
So, let’s learn a little more about this business-altering plan. Have a seat because we’re in for a ride!
What is a Business Development Plan? (Definition)
A business development plan is a detailed strategic plan on how to develop your business by implementing various ideas, tactics, and strategies that assist a company in scale better in every sphere of the business. This business development plan is what defines your current positioning and helps you devise and implement a strategic plan to grow in the market.
Simply put, it is the development of long-term value that a firm enjoys from all of its stakeholders.
A business development plan is a guide to bring everyone in the organization on the same page and get them to work towards a common goal.
For your firm to not just be complacent and make big leaps in the industry, a business development plan is a must!
Now, let’s see how this development plan is beneficial for your firm…
How Creating a Business Development Plan is Beneficial?
1. helps a business boost sales.
Profitability is one of the key metrics to judge a business’s growth.
Devising a strong business development plan helps a business to understand the markets that are the most profitable and which plans need to be pursued first.
Business development plans also involve documenting your firm’s revenue model and all of its pros and cons.
This way, you can better assess what changes need to be made in your revenue model and what other streams can be added to it.
Read more: Business Letters: Definition, Types, Format, and Tips!
2. Presents Expansion Opportunities
Expansion into new markets is always a coveted opportunity for any business.
Business development is all about staying ahead of current trends and curating plans to make the expansion possible.
It’s this research that makes you better acquainted with the best target audiences and customers for your firm and thus paving way for entering new, undiscovered markets.
3. A Better Understanding of your Consumer
As discussed earlier, a good business development plan requires assessing a company’s key demographic and target markets.
It acts from a customer’s perspective so that the business can bring forward a solution to a problem large enough to make profits.
This way the focus turns to the “customer is king” model which works to promote loyalty among customers towards your brand.
4. Improves Company Image
When business development plans are created, it’s not only the customers that are analyzed but also the daily working of the firm.
A business developer can use this information and assimilate it into marketing campaigns.
By keeping potential customers in mind, a firm can address how they strive daily to help satisfy the needs of their customers.
This makes for a solidified marketing campaign.
Now that we know why a business development plan is so crucial, let’s get to creating one!
How to Create a Business Development Plan? Follow these Steps!
Step 1. revisit your vision.
When you started your business, you probably asked yourself the “Where do you see yourself a year from now?” question.
Well, the business development plan starts right there! This is the focal point for all your inspiration.
It defines what YOU want from your firm, and that’s why it’s necessary to think-free and dream high.
Do you want to have a certain amount of sales?
Do you want to win the best local business award?
Whatever it is. Start right here. Articulating what you think you need to reap from your business is where it all starts.
It’ll serve as a baseline to get your firm going and keep you motivated despite hardships.
Step 2. Assessing your Business
The next step is to evaluate your own business.
Conduct SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what markets you can venture to.
Align these with your vision, check where you’re slacking and what you need to do to achieve your vision.
Acme, a beauty brand has the vision to become an international firm in the next two years. Let’s say that their strengths are:
- It resonates well with the customers.
- It is low cost and produces good profit margins.
Whereas their weaknesses are:
- Their marketing plans are not as effective as they need to be.
- Sales haven’t been picking off lately.
This way they can focus better on what needs to be tweaked and work towards attaining their vision.
Read more: Business Documents: Definition, Types, Benefits & Steps to Create Them!
Step 3. Define your Target Audience
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”
Sums it all up, doesn’t it?
Without knowing your exact audience, there is no way to make it through in any industry.
A business development plan looks forward to deciphering this and assessing changing trends which helps you find the best-fit audience.
For more details on how you can identify your target audience, check out our blog:
(Linking our target audience blog here once it’s published online)
Step 4. Identify Competition
Knowing what other competitors offer will act as a great tool to understand how your business stands out.
Assess what pricing policies they use, what marketing campaigns they’ve undertaken, and what worked for them.
This way you can identify the best strategic moves for your business moving forward!
Read more: Business Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Format)
Step 5. Deliberate New Ideas
From the evaluation you’ve done so far, start setting priorities for what you think needs to change.
And then depending on those, start listing what all possible solutions could help solve them. Mention anything and everything you think would work.
For example: Let’s consider our previous example of Acme which was lacking on its marketing fronts. Now their possible solutions could be:
- Beginning a new marketing campaign.
- Hiring a campaign manager.
- Starting blogs or email marketing.
- Advertising in beauty magazines.
Thus, a firm can tackle all its issues by listing down every possible way to address them.
This brainstorming session may seem far-fetched but can lead you in the right direction and help you find the most accurate solution to your problems.
Step 6. Setting a Goal
Once you’ve devised a plan, it’s important to set dates.
For example: If you plan to begin a marketing campaign, make sure it gets started by a certain date and yields results by a certain date.
Only when you set smaller goals, you’ll be able to achieve your vision.
These goals will set you and the people in your firm into motion and serve as a reminder as to what’s expected of them.
Step 7. Assess your Business Plan
Although many firms overlook this part, it’s utterly crucial.
Now that you have implemented your plans and you’re ready to achieve your vision, it’s time to assess it.
Monitor the impacts and document all of it as you go, so when you get back to it a year from now, you’re more informed about what went wrong and what yielded shining results.
Read More: Reasons Why You Should Write a Business Plan!
Now you’ve not only created your development plan and assessed it, but you’ve also got ideas and insights into what you need to include in your next one!
Sounds like a concrete business documentation plan may require an even faster and smarter tool!
Well, it’s time for you to meet Bit.ai…
Bit.ai : The Ultimate Tool for Creating a Business Development Plan
We know that creating a business development plan is a complex task and it seems like it requires highly proficient documentation skills…
Well, let us break that bubble for you!
With Bit, you can make documentation fun and exciting and create the perfect business development plan for your business.
Working with Bit is very simple. With its integrated and interactive tools, it will take you much less time to create documents and you’ll get solid results too!
Don’t believe us? Check out some of its amazing features:
- Real-Time Collaboration: When working on a document as comprehensive as a business development plan, it’s obvious that you’ll be working with a team. At such times, it’s more important than ever to have a seamless collaboration experience! Bit facilitates exactly that with its real-time collaboration feature that lets you work on the same document together, comment to exchange ideas, and chat on the side.
- Fully Responsive Templates : Want to create an exciting development plan? Bit has you covered. With its fun and awesome templates that are fully responsive on every kind of device, you are bound to have an exhilarating experience!
- Sleek Editor: A business development plan is deemed to have corrections and require edits and thus a sleek editor like Bit’s would be a handy tool to allow interruption-free editing!
- Sharing and Permissions: A development plan is a vital plan for any business and only needs to be accessed by the right people. Bit supports features like document tracking, password protection, file access restrictions, etc. which help secure your document and lets you decide who gets to access it.
- Real-time Insights: With its trackable links, you can keep an eye on who viewed the plan, for how long, and more. Bit has you covered in offering accurate and powerful insights!
- Smart Workspaces: When working with multiple teams, it’s important that everything is as organized as possible. Bit’s smart Workspaces helps you do just that! Not only can you efficiently work with different departments and teams, but you can also store information of varied kinds in a neat manner.
- Content Library: Bit has a powerful content library that you can use to save and access all your images, videos, and other digital content you might need in your business development plan.
- Rich Media Integration: One of the ways to make your development plan more comprehendible and accessible is to make it interactive. Bit lets you do that! You can add videos, social media posts, music, cloud files, presentations, maps, charts, surveys/polls – basically every kind of rich media in your Bit doc.
- Client Portal: Bit provides a smooth experience for your team and clients to review your business development plans. All you need to do is invite clients into your workspaces by giving them ‘guest access’. The ‘guests’ aka your clients can get two types of access to the documents: comment-only and read-only.
Trust us when we say that no documentation tool out there is as robust as Bit. It even offers a free account for up to 5 users and we think you should absolutely give it a try!
Our team at bit.ai has created a few awesome business templates to make your business processes more efficient. Make sure to check them out before you go, y our team might need them!
- SWOT Analysis Template
- Business Proposal Template
- Business Plan Template
- Competitor Research Template
- Project Proposal Template
- Company Fact Sheet
- Executive Summary Template
- Operational Plan Template
- Pitch Deck Template
We know that everyone craves success but only very few have the patience and perseverance to reach that peak of glory.
A business development plan may not scream success when you’re creating it, but it’s a stepping stone that will take you there!
It will constantly acquaint your organization with its long-term goals, and help it strategize and execute its plans in a resounding manner.
We hope that we’ve gotten you all fired up to get started with your business development plan. Follow our steps and you’re ready to rock!
Don’t forget to let us know how it goes by tweeting us @bit_docs. We’d be happy to hear from you!
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Bit.ai is the essential next-gen workplace and document collaboration platform. that helps teams share knowledge by connecting any type of digital content. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, anyone can work visually and collaborate in real-time while creating internal notes, team projects, knowledge bases, client-facing content, and more.
The smartest online Google Docs and Word alternative, Bit.ai is used in over 100 countries by professionals everywhere, from IT teams creating internal documentation and knowledge bases, to sales and marketing teams sharing client materials and client portals.
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5 Steps to Developing a Solid Business Plan
You have a great business idea and want to jump right in. The one thing holding you back may be lack of a clear business plan . While some would say having a business plan is an absolute must, others would argue that you can get started and be successful without one.
I think the answer lies in how confident you are in your idea and how organized you are in terms of executing it. If you already have a clear plan in your head along with the steps you need to take and the means to take them, you may not see the need to create a 20-page business plan.
On the flip side, if your idea lacks clarity and you are considering seeking out funding from others sources, it would be best if you came up with a solid business plan. The good news, is that you can sit down and create a business plan in under a day. It doesn’t have to be super extensive so long as you hit all your main points and follow stick to outlining these steps.
Table of Contents
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary is the first part of your business plan. This is where you capture the reader’s attention be explaining the specifics of your business. What is the name? What will you be doing? What is the mission of your business and what are your goals?
Be sure to include what makes your business unique and summarize why you feel it will succeed.
2. Market Analysis
Next you want to analyze the market in order to prove that there is a need and target audience for your business. This is a great way to validate your business idea as well. If you can’t narrow down your target market or find that they aren’t interested in what you are offering, that could be a huge red flag.
Be sure to clarify who you wish to serve along with some detailed statistics that describe them, their interests, what products and services they buy, along with and their needs and wants.
3. Financial Projections
The financial projections section is where you get to have some fun with numbers. Map out the financial progress you plan to make with your business over the next 3-5 years. Include revenue goals and you might want to specify how much you’d need from an investor or a loan to bring those goals to fruition.
This is also a great place to mention various different start-up costs you’ll have so investors can know why you need money to support your business.
4. Organizational Structure
Have you ever thought about how your business will operate and be structured? Will you act as the CEO? Will you have a team or hire interns ? Will you eventually need to work with accounting, sales, and marketing experts? Or will you be more of a solopreneur.
This is a great section to answer all of those questions and map out how you might expect your business to grow in the future and which roles you’ll have and need.
5. Products or Services
Finally, in step 5 you want to go into more detail about your products and services. Most people start with this step (especially if they don’t consider making a business plan) but it’s best to end here after you’ve covered your bases in the previous steps.
Discuss what makes your product or service unique and how you plan to execute it in a competitive marketplace. If you’re going to be selling products include descriptions and images along with whether you’d need to trademark anything.
A business plan can be a crucial tool to help you get organized and perform neccessary research before moving forward with your new venture. If you’re considering asking for funding or financial assistance, a solid business plan is usually a requirement.
Even so, it’s a great way to get crystal clear on your goals and intentions so you can focus in on carrying out your plans and being successful.
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To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More
7 Steps to Creating an Effective Business Action Plan
As a business, turning your goals into reality can be overwhelming. However, one of the things that simplify this process is the formation of a well-thought-out business plan.
What is an Action Plan?
A business action plan is a brief overview of the goals and vision you have set for your business. It consists of a road map, strategies, and processes to achieve those goals.
An effective business plan action creates small steps towards achieving long-term business goals, considering all possible challenges and benefits of the vision.
Think of a business plan as the roadmap to take your business to the next level. However, to be successful, it must contain your goals and projects with details about the required resources and the complexity of tasks.
An action plan allows for efficient teamwork, enabling team leaders to delegate projects and tasks effectively. It holds individuals accountable as everyone can view progress and plan things simultaneously to ensure that the plan is followed at all times.
Businesses of all sizes can create an action plan by following these steps:
1. Set Your Goals and Objectives
When creating an action plan, you must set objectives and goals that you want to achieve to make your business successful. It is vital to let your team members know what your targets are so that they can help you achieve them.
An action plan won’t work if you do not know what you want to achieve. Start by analyzing your current business and mapping out where you want to see it in the next few years. Read our article on How to Eat an Elephant to create a vision for your business that’ll take it to the next level.
This will help you get a clear idea of the situation while exploring ideas to build your business and achieve your goals. Moreover, defining your goals is the first step to implementing successful strategies.
Start by prioritizing essential tasks and delegating responsibilities. Creating S.M.A.R.T goals for your team makes it easier to set long and short-term goals and execute them efficiently. This means that your goals should be:
2. Make Use of Available Resources
One of the most common reasons for failed action plans is that employers are not fully aware of their available financial and human resources, which is why they tend to under or over-delegate. When creating an action plan, make sure that you take a good look at your budget, workforce, and time constraints.
Follow the R.A.S.C.I matrix which includes the following:
- Responsible - Delegate a team to carry out the task
- Accountable - Delegate a manager or head of the team to ensure that the action plan is followed
- Support - Delegate someone to provide support to employees, such as an H.R. manager or in-office counsellor
- Consult - Delegate a go-to member who needs to be consulted before any task is executed. For example, C.F.O.s are responsible for all the finances of the company.
- Informed: Decide who needs to be informed about decisions, task progress, and any discrepancies in timelines. This could be the head of the department or a senior member of the team.
3. Create a Bulletproof List of Details for Each Task
The best way to make an effective business plan is by creating a spreadsheetthat includes a list of goals with the employees responsible for achieving those goals. The actions you list do not have to be complicated- they can include daily tasks like employing someone new, creating a new budget, or working on a bigger project.
The spreadsheet should have a key performance indicator, a list of delegated employees responsible for the goal and a timeline during which the action must be executed. Moreover, the spreadsheet can list tasks by priority so that no deadline is missed.
This will also help with customer relationship management - as long as quality tasks are completed in time, customers will be happy with the process.
4. Visualize Your Action Plan
Once everyone in your team or department has a clear idea of their tasks, goals, and responsibilities, you can create a virtual representation of the business action plan. This will help keep your people engaged while ensuring everyone sticks to the script.
By creating a graphical presentation you can ensure that viewing your project’s goals and targets is easier. This will also allow you to identify tasks that need to be prioritized.
A concept map can communicate vital data, such as the employees responsible for attaining specific tasks, goals, resources, and deadlines. Everyone should have access to this document, as transparency is one of the best ways to keep employees engaged and loyal to the company.
Visual collaboration platforms can help your team visualize objectives, allowing you to provide a structure to your concepts and goals.
5. Ensure Active Team Participation
Get your team on board from the start so that they can ofer timely feedback on the strategy and become a part of the decision-making process.
For a business to be successful, teamwork is vital. Hence, managers should sit down with their teams and look at projects together so that they can brainstorm an effective action plan and think about how to implement it.
The idea is to encourage the flow of ideas and then pick out those that you think will help your business attain success. You never know which employee might come up with a ground-breaking concept that will take your business to the next level.
6. Incorporate a Timeline
An action plan can give you a bird’s eye view of the 12 months of work. Every initiative listed on the spreadsheet must have a column that lists the deadline for the task and how it will be divided over the months.
You can also include extra columns in the action plan to list the things that need to be achieved in the next two to three years. Recognizing and working on these goals will help employees execute them faster with lower chances of error.
7. Create a Follow-Up Process
Employers must come up with ways to track their action plans. This could include creating milestones, like offering a small bonus when tasks are completed, establishing quantifiable measures to track performance, such as market share, an internal point system, or creating a revenue margin.
It is vital to form steps and take action to ensure that all designated tasks are completed and that no one in the team falls behind. Sit down with your team every month and discuss performances in detail. You can hold regular meetings and ask for end-of-the-day reporting to track progress.
With the help of meetings, you can recognize the work of exceptional employees and reward them for their initiative. Moreover, you can offer support to employees struggling to meet deadlines so that a corrective action plan can be implemented.
Keep in mind that business action plans are not written in stone. You must be flexible in responding to problems that arise during the implementation period. Moreover, there could be changes in deadlines or employee turnover that you must be ready to deal with.
Keep reviewing and updating your business action plan every six months so that you can account for changes that might have taken place at your workplace and keep track of regular progress that will affect the final goal.
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The Business Planning Process: 6 Steps To Creating a New Plan
In this article, we will define and explain the basic business planning process to help your business move in the right direction.
What is Business Planning?
Business planning is the process whereby an organization’s leaders figure out the best roadmap for growth and document their plan for success.
The business planning process includes diagnosing the company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, improving its efficiency, working out how it will compete against rival firms in the future, and setting milestones for progress so they can be measured.
Writing a new business plan involves a detailed process with a number of stages, some of which can overlap. Whether you are writing your plan from scratch, from a simple business plan template , or working with an experienced business plan consultant or writer, business planning for startups, small businesses, and existing companies is the same.
Finish Your Business Plan Today!
The best business planning process is to use our business plan template to streamline the creation of your plan: Download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template and finish your business plan & financial model in hours.
The Better Business Planning Process
The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows:
- Do Your Research
- Calculate Your Financial Forecast
- Draft Your Plan
- Revise & Proofread
- Nail the Business Plan Presentation
We’ve provided more detail for each of these key steps below.
1. Do Your Research
Conduct detailed research into the industry, target market, existing customer base, competitors, and costs of the business begins the process. You may ask yourself the following questions:
- What are your business goals?
- What is the current state of your business?
- What are the current industry trends?
- What is your competition doing?
There are a variety of resources needed, ranging from databases and articles to direct interviews with other entrepreneurs, potential customers, or industry experts. The information gathered during this process should be documented and organized carefully, including the source as there is a need to cite sources within your business plan.
You may also want to complete a SWOT Analysis for your own business to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential risks as this will help you develop your strategies to highlight your competitive advantage.
Now, you will use the research to determine the best strategy for your business. You may choose to develop new strategies or refine existing strategies that have demonstrated success in the industry. Pulling the best practices of the industry provides a foundation, but then you should expand on the different activities that focus on your competitive advantage.
This step of the planning process may include formulating a vision for the company’s future, which can be done by conducting intensive customer interviews and understanding their motivations for purchasing goods and services of interest. Dig deeper into decisions on an appropriate marketing plan, operational processes to execute your plan, and human resources required for the first five years of the company’s life.
3. Calculate Your Financial Forecast
All of the activities you choose for your strategy come at some cost and, hopefully, lead to some revenues. Sketch out the financial situation by looking at whether you can expect revenues to cover all costs and leave room for profit in the long run.
Begin to insert your financial assumptions and startup costs into a financial model which can produce a first-year cash flow statement for you, giving you the best sense of the cash you will need on hand to fund your early operations.
A full set of financial statements provides the details about the company’s operations and performance, including its expenses and profits by accounting period (quarterly or year-to-date). Financial statements also provide a snapshot of the company’s current financial position, including its assets and liabilities.
This is one of the most valued aspects of any business plan as it provides a straightforward summary of what a company does with its money, or how it grows from initial investment to become profitable.
4. Draft Your Plan
With financials more or less settled and a strategy decided, it is time to draft through the narrative of each component of your business plan . With the background work you have completed, the drafting itself should be a relatively painless process.
If you have trouble writing convincing prose, this is a time to seek the help of an experienced business plan writer who can put together the plan from this point.
5. Revise & Proofread
Revisit the entire plan to look for any ideas or wording that may be confusing, redundant, or irrelevant to the points you are making within the plan. You may want to work with other management team members in your business who are familiar with the company’s operations or marketing plan in order to fine-tune the plan.
Finally, proofread thoroughly for spelling, grammar, and formatting, enlisting the help of others to act as additional sets of eyes. You may begin to experience burnout from working on the plan for so long and have a need to set it aside for a bit to look at it again with fresh eyes.
6. Nail the Business Plan Presentation
The presentation of the business plan should succinctly highlight the key points outlined above and include additional material that would be helpful to potential investors such as financial information, resumes of key employees, or samples of marketing materials. It can also be beneficial to provide a report on past sales or financial performance and what the business has done to bring it back into positive territory.
Business Planning Process Conclusion
Every entrepreneur dreams of the day their business becomes wildly successful.
But what does that really mean? How do you know whether your idea is worth pursuing?
And how do you stay motivated when things are not going as planned? The answers to these questions can be found in a business plan, a written document that provides an outline and resources needed to achieve success. This document helps entrepreneurs make better decisions and avoid common pitfalls along the way.
Business plans are dynamic documents that can be revised and presented to different audiences throughout the course of a company’s life. For example, a business may have one plan for its initial investment proposal, another which focuses more on milestones and objectives for the first several years in existence, and yet one more which is used specifically when raising funds.
Business plans are a critical first step for any company looking to attract investors or receive grant money, as they allow a new organization to better convey its potential and business goals to those able to provide financial resources.
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With Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template you can finish your plan in just 8 hours or less!
Click here to finish your business plan today.
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How to Create a Business Development Plan
Is it just us or is it hard to believe we’re already halfway through Q1? Seems like just yesterday we were setting goals and intentions for 2023 and now we’re checking in to see the progress and achievements we've already made.
Like most landscape business owners, the start of the year is full of ideas, excitement and intention. But as the year goes on, it’s easy to get distracted from your long-term business goals as the day-to-day operations take up most of your time. This year, we’re leaving all that behind. To make it easier for you to set goals (and crush them!), we’re sharing our business development checklist that will keep you on track year-round. Follow these steps and you’ll be blown away by your annual success.
Business Development Checklist:
Outline Your Goals
- Let’s say your goal is to make $5 million this year. That’s a great goal, but what does it really mean? You, as the landscape company owner, may know what steps are required to meet that goal, but often other employees in your company won’t be able to understand the breakdown. Without a holistic understanding from everyone on the team, you won’t be able to work together toward a shared goal.
- So, how do you break it down? Consider what services are going to lead to that final $5 million: $2 million from installation jobs, $2 million from maintenance and maybe $1 million is from outsourced tree care. You can take this information and relay it back to your sales team so they know which areas of the business they should be focusing on. Sales team manages the sales pipeline and they need to make sure they are creating opportunities to match the annual income goal. Your sales and operation pipelines need to be in constant communication otherwise you’ll have a broken system which makes meeting goals nearly impossible.
- Furthermore, you can take the annual number ($5 million) and divide it by 12 so you know your monthly goal. Go even further and divide it by 4 so you know your weekly goal. These weekly, bite-size financial goals are going to make it easier for your employees to conceptualize and execute–and before you know it… You’ve made $5 million in a year.
- And remember: Goals don’t always have to be about a final number. Instead of hitting $5 million in revenue, consider phrasing goals like “this year we’re going to increase our workload” or “we’re going to work with new clients.” If you can identify and outline your goal, you’ll be able to define your strategy from there.
Network with Associations (Local & National)
- Broadening your connections with other industry professionals and landscape business owners, sets you up for more business in the future. How? If you’re registered with local and national landscape associations, your business will be on a list when people in your area (and beyond) are in need of a service.
- Not only that, being part of larger organizations gives you a leg up on competitors, as you’ll have access to networking events, technology expos, expert advice, and local connections. Basically, when it comes to joining these associations, there are no downsides.
- To begin, we recommend starting local. How can you get involved with your local community? Is there a chamber of commerce? City hall? Local government? If you show your interest and are actively involved, your time will be rewarded.
- Next, get connected with your local trade services. We’re talking about plumbers, electricians, HVAC companies, etc. If you can get involved with the local service trade business, they can recommend or refer you to their clients when they inevitably need lawn care services.
- For state specific organizations and associations, Texas offers the Texas Nursery Landscape Association (TNLA) and Colorado has a statewide organization, the Colorado Association of Landscape Contractors. Check to see if your state offers something similar because clients (and potential clients) may be willing to pay a higher price for a team that’s recognized at the state level.
- The NALP (National Association of Landscape Professionals) offers certification to become licensed landscape technicians which can attract people and businesses to work with you, too.
- Bottom line: Using these associations to network can help you become a better business person, teach you how to manage people, offer tips on how to improve your operations and sales, and create more work opportunities for the future.
Create Growth in New Specific Areas
- The keyword here is “specific.” It’s one thing to say you want to tackle more work, but identifying exactly who you want to work with will make strategizing that much easier.
- For example, do you want to work for a certain landscape architecture firm? Are there any interior designers in your area? Do your research then create opportunities to get to know them. That could be as simple as sending their team an email or dropping a flier off at one of their job sites. The best thing you can do is get on their bidder list so they can begin partnering with you. Show them your work, brand, quality, and expertise–and they’ll have no reason to turn you down.
- Let’s say your desired specific area of growth includes working with higher-end clients. First, you need to know the area you typically service. Weigh the drive time and ease of access before jumping into a new demographic, as it’s easier to tap into the resources that are already around you.
- Lastly, is there a new line of service you could explore? This could be installation, maintenance, tree care, power washing, irrigation repairs, plant healthcare, etc. If someone is subcontracting out other yard work after you’ve completed the standard mowing and trimming, ask yourself how your landscape business can become the all inclusive lawn care company clients can use that does it all.
Expand Your Clientele
- Now that you know your goals, joined networks, and created growth in your service offerings, now you want to expand who you can service. First things first, ask yourself who your clientele is now. Can you break down where they live, what services they ask for, how often they require maintenance, what their average bill is?
- To create sustainable growth, you need to assign ownership to the who, when and what. Who is your ideal client? When are you going to act on your next steps? What is your game plan to capture a new audience?
- Some easy tips that smaller businesses have found success with include posting fliers in the specific neighborhoods you want to work in and including a referral message at the bottom of every invoice. Even something as simple as “please refer us to friends and family” can go a long way when trying to build up your clientele.
Measure Your Achievements
- Finally, it’s time for the good stuff: Your wins! After all the hard work on the front end (outlining your goals, defining the strategy, making steps to meet those goals), you’re now at the point to see what your hard work has achieved.
- We recommend setting up weekly or biweekly discussions with the entire team to discuss what has gone well and what could be improved upon. By including everyone, each team member can better see their direct contribution to the company’s success. Not only that, it keeps everyone on the same page as far as tracking goals.
- So, how do you actually track success? Measure the timeline of each of your goals, breaking them down by week, month and quarter. This way, you can plot the expected path to success and you’ll have a specific place to check in each week. You’ll be able to see if you’re behind, on par or ahead of schedule–which will further inform which steps to take next.
- It’s of vital importance to constantly know where you stand against your goals–so be sure to schedule this touchbase meeting week after week if you want to stay on top.
How do you feel? Inspired to create a new set of goals? Ready to chase a new service offering? Us too! And the best thing about business development is that it’s a constant part of running a landscape company. Just because Q1 is halfway over doesn't mean it’s too late to start. In fact, we think there’s no better time to use this checklist to set new goals for the remainder of the year–and we know you’ll be able to crush them.
Want more executive advice? Take a look at our peer groups and see what this style of coaching can do for your landscape business.
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How to write a business plan in seven simple steps
When written effectively, a business plan can help raise capital, inform decisions, and draw new talent.
Companies of all sizes have one thing in common: They all began as small businesses. Starting small is the corner for those just getting off the ground. Learn about how to make that first hire, deal with all things administrative, and set yourself up for success.
Writing a business plan is often the first step in transforming your business from an idea into something tangible . As you write, your thoughts begin to solidify into strategy, and a path forward starts to emerge. But a business plan is not only the realm of startups; established companies can also benefit from revisiting and rewriting theirs. In any case, the formal documentation can provide the clarity needed to motivate staff , woo investors, or inform future decisions.
No matter your industry or the size of your team, the task of writing a business plan—a document filled with so much detail and documentation—can feel daunting. Don’t let that stop you, however; there are easy steps to getting started.
What is a business plan and why does it matter?
A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction. It typically includes extensive market research, competitor analysis, financial documentation, and an overview of your business and marketing strategy. When written effectively, a business plan can help prescribe action and keep business owners on track to meeting business goals.
Who needs a business plan?
A business plan can be particularly helpful during a company’s initial growth and serve as a guiding force amid the uncertainty, distractions, and at-times rapid developments involved in starting a business . For enterprise companies, a business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides decision-making and facilitates intentional growth.
“You should have a game plan for every major commitment you’ll have, from early-stage founder agreements to onboarding legal professionals,” says Colin Keogh, CEO of the Rapid Foundation—a company that brings technology and training to communities in need—and a WeWork Labs mentor in the UK . “You can’t go out on funding rounds or take part in accelerators without any planning.”
How to make a business plan and seven components every plan needs
While there is no set format for writing a business plan, there are several elements that are typically included. Here’s what’s important to consider when writing your business plan.
1. Executive summary
No longer than half a page, the executive summary should briefly introduce your business and describe the purpose of the business plan. Are you writing the plan to attract capital? If so, specify how much money you hope to raise, and how you’re going to repay the loan. If you’re writing the plan to align your team and provide direction, explain at a high level what you hope to achieve with this alignment, as well as the size and state of your existing team.
The executive summary should explain what your business does, and provide an introductory overview of your financial health and major achievements to date.
2. Company description
To properly introduce your company, it’s important to also describe the wider industry. What is the financial worth of your market? Are there market trends that will affect the success of your company? What is the state of the industry and its future potential? Use data to support your claims and be sure to include the full gamut of information—both positive and negative—to provide investors and your employees a complete and accurate portrayal of your company’s milieu.
Go on to describe your company and what it provides your customers. Are you a sole proprietor , LLC, partnership, or corporation? Are you an established company or a budding startup? What does your leadership team look like and how many employees do you have? This section should provide both historical and future context around your business, including its founding story, mission statement , and vision for the future.
It’s essential to showcase your point of difference in your company description, as well as any advantages you may have in terms of expert talent or leading technology. This is typically one of the first pieces of the plan to be written.
3. Market analysis and opportunity
Research is key in completing a business plan and, ideally, more time should be spent on research and analysis than writing the plan itself. Understanding the size, growth, history, future potential, and current risks inherent to the wider market is essential for the success of your business, and these considerations should be described here.
In addition to this, it’s important to include research into the target demographic of your product or service. This might be in the form of fictional customer personas, or a broader overview of the income, location, age, gender, and buying habits of your existing and potential customers.
Though the research should be objective, the analysis in this section is a good place to reiterate your point of difference and the ways you plan to capture the market and surpass your competition.
4. Competitive analysis
Beyond explaining the elements that differentiate you from your competition, it’s important to provide an in-depth analysis of your competitors themselves.
This research should delve into the operations, financials, history, leadership, and distribution channels of your direct and indirect competitors. It should explore the value propositions of these competitors, and explain the ways you can compete with, or exploit, their strengths and weaknesses.
5. Execution plan: operations, development, management
This segment provides details around how you’re going to do the work necessary to fulfill this plan. It should include information about your organizational structure and the everyday operations of your team, contractors, and physical and digital assets.
Consider including your company’s organizational chart, as well as more in-depth information on the leadership team: Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What do they bring to the table? Potentially include the résumés of key people on your team.
For startups, your execution plan should include how long it will take to begin operations, and then how much longer to reach profitability. For established companies, it’s a good idea to outline how long it will take to execute your plan, and the ways in which you will change existing operations.
If applicable, it’s also beneficial to include your strategy for hiring new team members and scaling into different markets.
6. Marketing plan
It’s essential to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place as you scale operations or kick off a new strategy—and this should be shared with your stakeholders and employees. This segment of your business plan should show how you’re going to promote your business, attract customers, and retain existing clients.
Include brand messaging, marketing assets, and the timeline and budget for engaging consumers across different channels. Potentially include a marketing SWOT analysis into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate the way your competitors market themselves, and how your target audience responds—or doesn’t respond—to these messages.
7. Financial history and projections
It’s essential to disclose all finances involved in running your company within your business plan. This is so your shareholders properly understand how you’re projected to perform going forward, and the progress you’ve made so far.
You should include your income statement, which outlines annual net profits or losses; a cash flow statement, which shows how much money you need to launch or scale operations; and a balance sheet that shows financial liabilities and assets.
“An income statement is the measure of your financial results for a certain period and the most accurate report of business activities during that time, [whereas a balance sheet] presents your assets, liabilities, and equity,” Amit Perry, a corporate finance expert, explained at a WeWork Labs educational session in Israel.
It’s crucial to understand the terms correctly so you know how to present your finances when you’re speaking to investors. Amit Perry, CEO and founder of Perryllion Ltd.
In addition, if you’re asking for funding, you will need to outline exactly how much money you need as well as where this money will go and how you plan to pay it back.
12 quick tips for writing a business plan
Now that you know what components are traditionally included in a business plan, it’s time to consider how you’ll actually construct the document.
Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead.
1. Don’t be long-winded
Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders.
2. Show why you care
Let your passion for your business shine through; show employees and investors why you care (and why they should too).
3. Provide supporting documents
Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging.
4. Reference data
All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative and relevant data points.
5. Research, research, research
The research that goes into your business plan should take you longer than the writing itself. Consider tracking your research as supporting documentation.
6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference
At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan.
7. Be objective in your research
As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency.
8. Know the purpose of your plan
It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction.
9. Identify your audience
The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders?
10. Avoid jargon
Avoid using industry-specific jargon, unless completely unavoidable, and try making your business plan as easy to understand as possible—for all potential stakeholders.
11. Don’t be afraid to change it
Your business plan should evolve with your company’s growth, which means your business plan document should evolve as well. Revisit and rework your business plan as needed, and remember the most important factor: having a plan in place, even if it changes.
A business plan shouldn’t just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead.
Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company
Whether you’re just starting out or running an existing operation, writing an effective business plan can be a key predictor of future success. It can be a foundational document from which you grow and thrive . It can serve as a constant reminder to employees and clients about what you stand for, and the direction in which you’re moving. Or, it can prove to investors that your business, team, and vision are worth their investment.
No matter the size or stage of your business, WeWork can help you fulfill the objectives outlined in your business plan—and WeWork’s coworking spaces can be a hotbed for finding talent and investors, too. The benefits of coworking spaces include intentionally designed lounges, conference rooms, and private offices that foster connection and bolster creativity, while a global network of professionals allows you to expand your reach and meet new collaborators.
Using these steps to write a business plan will put you in good stead to not only create a document that fulfills a purpose but one that also helps to more clearly understand your market, competition, point of difference, and plan for the future.
For more tips on growing teams and building a business, check out all our articles on Ideas by WeWork.
Caitlin Bishop is a writer for WeWork’s Ideas by WeWork , based in New York City. Previously, she was a journalist and editor at Mamamia in Sydney, Australia, and a contributing reporter at Gotham Gazette .
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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .
1. Write an executive summary
2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. add additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.
» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .
This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.
Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.
» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps
Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:
Your business’s registered name.
Address of your business location .
Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.
Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.
Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.
» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan
The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.
If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.
For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.
In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.
You should include the following:
An explanation of how your product or service works.
The pricing model for your product or service.
The typical customers you serve.
Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.
Your sales strategy.
Your distribution strategy.
You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.
Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.
Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.
» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing
If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.
You may also include metrics such as:
Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.
Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.
Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.
This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.
» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:
The best business checking accounts .
The best business credit cards .
The best accounting software .
This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.
Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.
Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.
List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.
Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:
Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.
Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.
Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.
- Business Development Strategy: A High-Growth Approach
Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.
Business Development Defined
Business development (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.
The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The three stages of the business development funnel
The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.
But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.
Business Development vs. Marketing
Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and it’s offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.
Free Download: Getting Back in the Game: A Playbook to Help Professional Services Firms Win Under “The New Normal”
Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.
Business Development vs. Sales
Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.
Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.
Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.
Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.
As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.
The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.
It is this expanded role, where business development encompasses the full range of lead generation, nurturing and sales tasks, which we will concentrate on in this post.
See also: Heller Consulting Case Story
Business Development Examples
To be clear on what this role entails, let’s consider this business development example:
Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved with any aspect of delivering the projects that the firm has signed. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—with either new clients or existing ones.
For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of new materials she needs to sell to new accounts.
When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also has a role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. Moreover, she maintains a relationship with key stakeholders of her firm’s clients. If another opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component to that potential deal.
In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Imagine she has a colleague Greg who is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s first focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—should still be a part of his professional life. Perhaps Greg attends an industry conference with Bethany, he as a speaker and expert and her as the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany and should permeate the whole organization.
In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential for business development to not be ad hoc, but done strategically. Let’s talk about that now.
Strategic Business Development
Not all business development is of equal impact. In fact a lot of the activities of many professionals are very opportunistic and tactical in nature.This is especially true with many seller-doers.
Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.
Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.
Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.
Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.
Top Business Development Strategies
Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up with today’s buyers .
Networking is probably the most universally used business development strategy. It’s built on the theory that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.
It certainly is true that many relationships do develop in that way. And if you are networking with your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.
Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.
The close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.
Clearly, referrals do happen, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.
The problem is referral sources often do not know the full range of how you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One recent study puts the number at over 50%.
Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.
Learn More: Referral Marketing Course
Sponsorships and Advertising
Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.
Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.
The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.
Outbound Telephone and Mail
Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.
There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.
The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.
Thought Leadership and Content Marketing
Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.
Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.
But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.
But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.
It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.
But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.
Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.
It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.
Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.
Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics
The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.
From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.
On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.
10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics
Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at over 1000 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.
These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.
The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:
- Providing assessments and/or consultations
- Keyword research/ search engine optimization
- Live product/service demonstrations
- Conducting and publishing original research
- Public relations (earned media)
- Nurturing prospects through phone calls
- Speaking at targeted conferences or events
- Marketing partnerships with other organizations
- Presenting in educational webinars
- Networking on social media
There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number seven on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.
The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.
Business Development Skills
Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.
When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms who grow faster have a skill advantage within their marketing and business development teams.
Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list.
The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Activities like the proposal development see business development team resources manage and produce a strong proposal quickly, including the right stakeholders, and without sacrificing quality.
The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are strong communicators of your firm’s service offerings and capabilities. Those who are able to take a comlex scope of work and communicate it in a way that a potential buyer can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or overly complicated charts is a fast way to see a business lead become unresponsive. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.
The third most important business development skill is face-to-face networking. Despite the hiatus of many in-person events, high growth firms still reported that strong networking skills are a top skill enjoyed by their firms. Strong face-to-face networking skills are as much of an art as it is a science. While some can be more charismatic than others, everyone can prepare their teams with the resources and plan they need to succeed in a networking environment.
Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop. Strategy development for planning your business development plan, research for understanding the competitive landscape and industry trends, and social media prowess all play an important role in business development, too. Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.
How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan
A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.
Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.
Define your target audience
Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.
Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors
The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?
Identify your competitive advantage
What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative, or the industry’s leading expert? This “positioning” as it is often called, needs to be true, provable and relevant to the prospect at the time they are choosing which firm to work with. Be sure to document this positioning, as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.
Choose your overall business development strategy
Pick the broad strategy or strategies to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.
Choose your business development tactics
A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what works with the audience.
Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term nurturing. You need to cover the full funnel.
Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.
Figure 2. Online and offline marketing techniques
When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.
Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact
Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious affect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.
If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.
How Hinge Can Help
Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be implemented. In fact, our groundbreaking Visible Firm ® program combines strategy, implementation, training and more.
- For hands-on help developing a high-performance business development plan, register for our Visible Firm ® course through Hinge University.
- Keep pace with the marketplace, generate leads and build your reputation all at once: Marketing Planning Guide.
- Find out how to turn your firm into a high-visibility, high-growth business. Download our free executive guide, The Visible Firm® , in which we layout a detailed roadmap of this research-based program.
- For more insights, check out our blog post, How to Develop a Winning Go-to-Market Strategy for Your Firm
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The Ultimate Guide to Business Development and How It Can Help Your Company Grow
Discover the importance of business development and how the process can help your business grow better.
FREE SALES PLAN TEMPLATE
Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent plan.
Imagine working for a company without any employees dedicated to growing and developing the business.
Nobody to challenge you to improve or tell you about new business opportunities, changes in the market, what your competition is up to, or how you can attract your target audience more effectively.
This would make it pretty hard to succeed, don’t you think?
That’s why companies establish business development practices and hire employees to focus on these tasks (among others) to help them grow.
Business Develop-ment Reps
Business Develop-ment Ideas
Business Develop-ment Process
Business Develop-ment Plan
Business development is the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your organization to promote growth and boost revenue.
It involves pursuing opportunities to help your business grow, identifying new prospects, and converting more leads into customers. Business development is closely tied to sales — business development teams and representatives are almost always a part of the greater sales org.
Although business development is closely related to sales, it’s important to note what makes them different.
Business Development vs. Sales
As mentioned, business development lives on the greater sales team yet it serves a different function than typical sales work and responsibilities.
Business development is a process that helps your company establish and maintain relationships with prospects, learn about your buyer’s personas, increase brand awareness, and seek new opportunities to promote growth.
In contrast, sales teams sell your product or service to customers and work to convert leads into customers. Business development-related work simplifies the work of a salesperson or sales manager.
Let’s take a closer look at what business development representatives — the people responsible for carrying out the various business development tasks — do next.
Business Development Representative
Business development representatives (BDRs) seek out and establish new strategies, tactics, targets, employees, and prospects for your business. The goal of all BDRs is to find ways to grow and provide long-term value for the business.
Possessing the necessary business development skills and experience will help your BDRs achieve all of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
Business Development Representative Responsibilities
Although some BDR responsibilities may change over time and as your business grows, the following list will provide you with a solid understanding of typical BDR tasks.
1. Qualify leads.
BDRs must qualify leads and pinpoint ideal prospects to determine who they'll sell to. Typically, leads are qualified through calls, emails, web forms, and social media.
The key to qualifying leads (leads who are assigned to the BDRs as well as leads BDRs identify themselves) is to consider their needs and then determine whether or not your product or software could be a solution for them.
2. Identify and communicate with prospects.
By qualifying leads and searching for people who fit your buyer personas, BDRs will identify ideal prospects. They can communicate with those prospects directly to learn more about their needs and pain points.
This way, BDRs can determine whether or not the prospect will really benefit from your product or service by becoming a customer. This is important because it increases the potential of improved customer loyalty and retention.
Once the BDRs have identified ideal prospects, those prospects can be passed along to a sales rep on the team (or sales manager, if necessary) who can nurture them into making a deal.
3. Proactively seek new business opportunities.
Proactively seeking new opportunities — whether that’s in terms of the product line, markets, prospects, or brand awareness — is an important part of your business’s success. BDRs work to find new business opportunities through networking, researching your competition, and talking to prospects and current customers.
If a new business opportunity is identified, BDRs should schedule marketing assessments and discovery meetings with the sales reps on the team so they can all assess whether or not there’s potential for a deal.
4. Stay up-to-date on competition and new market trends.
It’s important to stay up-to-date on your competition’s strategies, products, and target audience as well as any new market and industry trends.
This will allow you to more effectively identify ideal prospects. It also helps your business prepare for any shifts in the market that could lead to the need for a new approach to qualifying leads and attracting your target audience.
5. Report to salespeople and development managers.
As we reviewed, at most companies, BDRs report to sales reps and sales managers. BDRS must communicate with these higher-ups for multiple reasons such as discussing lead qualification strategies and how to get prospects in touch with sales reps to nurture them into customers.
BDRs also have to report their findings (such as business opportunities and market trends) to sales reps and managers. Relaying this information and collaborating with sales reps and managers to develop and/or update appropriate strategies for your business and audience is critical to your success as an organization.
6. Promote satisfaction and loyalty.
A BDR's interaction with a prospect might be the very first interaction that prospect ever has with your business. So, creating a great first impression right off the bat is crucial to promote interest early on.
Whether a BDR is working to qualify the lead, learn more about the prospect and their needs, or find the right sales rep to work on a deal with them, their interactions with all of your prospects matter.
Once a BDR researches the prospect or begins interacting with them, ensure they tailor all communication towards the prospect. Customizing all content sent their way shows them they’re being listened to and cared for. These actions are professional and leave a strong impression.
In addition to understanding how BDRs help you grow, business development ideas are another powerful way to engage prospects and identify new business opportunities. Let’s take a look.
Business Development Ideas
- Innovate the way you network.
- Offer consultations.
- Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.
- Nurture prospects.
- Provide prospects with several types of content.
- Communicate with marketing.
- Invest in your website.
- Push your employees to expand and refine their skills.
Business development ideas are tactics you can implement to positively impact your company in a multitude of different ways. They can help you identify ideal prospects, network more effectively, improve brand awareness, and uncover new opportunities.
The following tactics are here to get you started — every business and team is different, meaning these ideas may or may not be suited for your specific situation. (So, feel free to modify the list!)
1. Innovate the way you network.
It’s no secret cold calls are less effective than they once were. Instead, innovate the way you network by establishing strong relationships with your prospects. You can do this by meeting with them in person at conferences, trade shows, or events related to your industry.
Browse your online networks including LinkedIn and other social sites for potential customers, too. Reach out to the people who sign up for your email subscription or complete other forms on your site.
2. Offer consultations.
Offer consultations and assessments for prospects. Talking about the ways your product or service applies to their needs will help prospects decide whether or not they’ll convert.
In contrast, consultations and assessments may also bring to light the ways a prospect is not an ideal fit for your product (which is equally as valuable since it prevents you from wasting any time nurturing them or having to deal with an unsatisfied customer down the road).
3. Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.
Provide your prospects and leads with sales demos so they can see how your product or service works in action. Ensure these demos are customized to show a prospect or lead how your product solves their challenge. You can share these demos in person, over email, on your website, or via video chat.
4. Nurture prospects.
Remember to nurture your prospects, whether it’s by phone call, email, meeting, or another mode of communication. The point of lead nurturing is to provide any information needed about your product or service so your prospects can decide whether or not they want to make a purchase.
By nurturing your leads , you’ll be able to tailor the content regarding your brand and product so your leads can better understand how your product will solve their specific pain points. You’ll also be able to show your support for the prospect and ensure they feel heard and understood by your company.
5. Provide prospects with several types of content.
Provide your prospects with different content types such as blogs, videos, and social media posts so they can learn more about your brand and product or service.
It’s best to meet your prospects where they are and provide the content they prefer to read or watch. Ensure all of this content is downloadable and/or shareable so prospects can send it to their team members to show them why your solution is their best option.
6. Communicate with marketing.
Although business development lives in the sales department, that doesn’t mean internal business development work only involves other members of the sales team. Host regular meetings and maintain open lines of communication with the departments at your company that impact your ability to succeed such as marketing and product development.
Think about it this way: Marketing creates content and campaigns for your target audience about how your product or service resolves their challenges. So, why wouldn’t you want to talk to them about the blogs, campaigns, social media posts, and website content they’re creating for the people you’re selling to?
Your reps and BDRs can share any content the marketing team creates directly with prospects to help them convert, as well as inform the marketing team of any content they feel is missing for prospects. If there are projects or campaigns out of your scope, you can opt to hire a marketing agency to help fill the void. But, like your marketing team, they'll need to understand your product and how to connect with your target audience.
7. Invest in your website.
You never get a second chance at a first impression, and in many cases, your website is exactly that — your prospects' first impression of your brand. So, it serves you to make it as accessible, navigable, visible, and helpful as possible.
Taking strides like making your site visually engaging, connecting your social media profiles, optimizing your site for search engines, linking to collateral like sales content , and maintaining an active blog can go a long way when conducting business development.
8. Push your employees to expand and refine their skills and knowledge.
Business development is never stagnant. Strategy, technology, and market conditions are all constantly evolving — so you're best off having your employees stay abreast of these trends.
Anyone involved in your business development should be liable to develop new skills as needed. If your organization adopts any sort of new technology, thoroughly train anyone the change touches on how to use it.
Encourage your employees to learn more about both the nuances of their field and the industries they serve. Is artificial intelligence starting to shift the dynamics of a specific industry? If so, make the BDRs who serve that market learn all they can about how it might change the nature of the companies they interact with.
Business Development Process
A business development process is the combination of steps your business takes to grow effectively, boost revenue, improve relationships with leads, and more. These steps are what your business development team will work on every day. It includes everything related to delighting customers along each part of the buyer's journey.
By working through your business development process, your team will have a strong understanding of your organization-wide goals, sales targets, current business situation, who your target audience members are, and more.
How to Do Business Development
- Conduct extensive market research.
- Raise visibility and awareness.
- Promote thought leadership.
- Conduct outreach.
- Qualify leads to pass off to sales.
- Provide exemplary customer service.
- Develop sales content from success stories.
1. Conduct extensive market research.
Successful business development rests, in large part, on you understanding your market and target personas. If you have no idea who you're trying to sell to and the state of the market they comprise, you can't successfully implement any other point on this list.
Study and survey your current customers to see who tends to buy from you. Look into your competition to get a feel for where you fit into your broader market. And take any other strides to get a better feel for the "who" behind your successful sales — without that intel, you'll never be able to shape the "how" side of your business development.
2. Raise visibility and awareness.
Business development, as a broader practice, extends beyond your sales org — your marketing department can also play a central role in the process. You can't source a base of potential customers if no one knows who you are.
Actions like constructing an effective website, investing in paid advertising, leveraging social profiles, participating in co-marketing partnerships with industry peers, and maintaining an active blog can all go a long way in supporting successful business development.
3. Promote thought leadership.
This point is sort of an extension of the one above. Establishing credibility is one of the more important steps you can take when doing business development. You can't just stop with prospects knowing who you are — they need to trust you if you're ever going to earn their business.
Publishing in-depth, industry-specific blog content is one way to get there — if you can show that you have a firm grasp on every aspect of your field, you can frame yourself as a reliable, knowledgeable resource for your customers. That kind of trust often translates to sales, down the line. Other media like webinars, white papers, and video content can also help your case.
4. Conduct outreach.
Actively reaching out to prospects is one of the most crucial, traditional elements of business development. You need to touch base with prospects if you're going to vet them and ultimately convert them to qualified leads.
This step is typically supported by extensive research on individual prospects, paired with contacting warm and cold leads proactively but not aggressively. BDRs typically shoulder this responsibility — and for many people, it's the aspect of the process most closely associated with the term "business development."
5. Qualify leads.
Once your BDRs have connected with leads, they need to qualify them to determine their viability and understand whether they're worth the sales org's time and effort. That generally entails having conversations with leads and asking the right qualifying questions to reveal their fit for your product or service.
This is one of the most pivotal moments in the business development process — in some respects, it could be considered its last step. Successfully executing this point typically means the process, as a whole, has worked.
6. Provide exemplary customer service.
Business development is an ongoing process that involves virtually every side of your business in some capacity — and customer service is no exception. Your service org needs to keep current customers happy to generate positive word of mouth and bolster your company's reputation. That kind of effort offers you credibility and can generate referrals, making business development more straightforward and effective.
7. Develop sales content from success stories.
Another part of business development is translating customer satisfaction into actionable, promotable sales content — pointed, product-specific content that's used to generate sales. While marketing content is used for thought leadership and garnering general interest, sales content is used to appeal to potential buyers, looking into your company specifically.
Sales content can come in a variety of forms, including case studies and testimonials — two mediums that lean heavily on your current customer base. When you use customers' experiences to generate interest in your business, your business development efforts essentially come full circle.
By compiling these elements of business development and sharing them among your team, you create an actionable business development strategy or plan that encourages and promotes success and growth. Let's review the different steps involved in creating your business development plan next.
Business Development Plan
A business development plan is a strategy your team can refer to while working to achieve growth-related goals. Sales managers typically create the business development plan for BDRs to work on.
The purpose of a business development plan (or strategy) is to set realistic goals and targets that allow your reps to grow the business, close more deals, identify prospects, align members of the sales team (and other teams, company-wide), and convert more leads.
1. Craft an elevator pitch.
You can simplify any initial communication with prospects by having an elevator pitch ready to go. This elevator pitch should explain your company’s mission and how your product or service can solve the needs of your target audience. Your elevator pitch should grab the attention of prospects and leads — and get them excited to learn more about what you offer.
Additionally, you can help your team determine which elevator pitches used by both BDRs and reps are most successful in converting leads and then document it in your greater strategy so everyone has access to it.
2. Set SMART goals.
Set SMART goals for your strategy — meaning, make sure your targets are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. By creating SMART goals for your business development plan, you’ll be able to ensure these goals are aligned with those of your entire company.
For example, if one of your goals is to increase your number of identified qualified leads this quarter by 5% , make the goal specific by determining the type of prospects you’ll focus on and how you’ll identify them.
Then, decide how you’ll measure your success — perhaps by measuring the number of these prospects who then go on to talk with a sales rep to learn more about the product or service.
You determine this goal is attainable due to the fact you increased your number of qualified leads last quarter by 3%. 5% isn’t too much of a leap.
Your goal is relevant because you know it’ll help your business grow — it pushes you to make a greater impact on your team by contributing to the sales team’s ability to close more deals and boost revenue. Lastly, it’s timely because you’ve set this goal for the quarter.
3. Conduct a SWOT analysis.
As mentioned above, part of any role in business development is to stay up-to-date on market and industry trends and understand your competition. This is where SWOT analysis comes in handy — SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats . The key to using SWOT analysis correctly is to have a clear goal in mind first.
For example, if your goal is to determine the best way to handle outreach with prospects , you can begin talking to your BDRs, sales reps, sales managers, and current customers about what works best for them.
Next, think about your strengths — what does your business do well? Maybe you have a large support team that provides helpful onboarding for new customers. Or you have several remote reps who can meet face-to-face with prospects in their desired location.
(You might have multiple strengths that make you stand out, so don’t be afraid to list them all and which ones have the greatest impact on your customers.)
Now, think about your weaknesses . Are your product’s limited offerings requiring some leads to consider your competition’s product in addition to yours? Is the need for your product growing faster than your production, or faster than you’re able to establish a large customer support team to assist your customers?
Onto your business opportunities . Think about where you’re going as a business and what you know you can accomplish. For example, maybe your business has recently partnered with another company that can help you boost brand awareness and attract a much broader base of leads and customers.
Lastly, who are your threats ? Think about your current competition — who’s producing a product or service like yours and is attracting a similar target audience? Who could become your competition in the future — is there a market gap that another company (new or established) could identify the need for and begin selling?
SWOT analysis allows you to identify the ways your company can create opportunities to grow and expand. It also helps how you establish new processes to address any weaknesses or threats such as identifying more qualified leads, efficiently converting prospects into customers, and shortening the sales cycle.
4. Determine how you’ll measure success.
Depending on the SMART goals you created and the SWOT analysis you performed, you’ll also need to decide how you’re going to measure your business development success.
Here are some examples of common business development KPIs that can help you analyze your efforts:
- Company growth
- Changes in revenue
- Lead conversion rate
- Leads generated per month/ quarter/ predetermined time
- Prospect and customer satisfaction
- Pipeline value
5. Set a budget.
Depending on the type of business development goals you set for the team, you may determine you need to set a budget. Consider your resources, the cost of any previous business development strategies you’ve developed, and other important operational line items (what you need, who’s involved, etc.).
Collaborate with the greater team to determine the amount you’re willing to, and need to, spend on business development to get the process started at your company.
6. Always keep your target audience in mind.
Whatever it is you’re working towards, keep your target audience and ideal prospects in mind. Assess their needs and understand exactly how your business and product or service will meet their pain points.
After all, this audience is the group who is most likely to buy your product. Make sure your plan addresses them and their needs so your team can convert more of them and grow your business.
7. Choose an outreach strategy.
As we’ve reviewed above, a major component of business development is finding new prospects and potential customers. To find new prospects, you’ll need to decide how you’ll perform outreach, or connect with these potential customers. Here are some ideas:
- Use referrals
- Upsell and cross-sell
- Sponsorship and advertisement
Also, review any expectations or guardrails related to outreach reps are held to so your business has only professional and on-brand interactions with prospects.
Congrats! You’ve just completed your business development plan — with your strategy and ideas, your business will be growing in no time.
Business Development Resources
1. hubspot sales hub.
Best for Businesses Interested in a Wide-Reaching, One-Stop Solution
HubSpot Sales Hub includes a suite of resources that enable more focused, effective business development. Features like email templates and email tracking lend themselves to well-targeted, productive prospecting.
Its conversational intelligence capabilities can provide invaluable insight into the "why" behind your BDRs' overall performance — letting you pinpoint the strengths and flaws in key business development elements like your messaging and pain point assessments.
Sales Hub is a dynamic solution that covers a lot of bases for your sales org — including several beyond business development. But that wide range of applications doesn't undermine its utility for BDRs and their managers. If you're looking for a solution that addresses almost every component of successful business development, consider investing in HubSpot Sales Hub.
Best for Businesses Interested in Keeping BDRs and Top-of-Funnel Activities on Track
Bloobirds is a sales engagement and playbook platform that guides SDRs and closing reps to convert more prospects into customers. It partners with your existing CRM — sitting on top of it to make it more functional for the sales team.
It eliminates admin tasks, makes selling more intuitive, and makes sure reps follow best plays with the in-app playbook's help. Bloobirds helps sales teams flow through their pipeline — it also collects crucial data and creates competitive insights.
Best for Businesses Struggling to Generate High-Potential Leads
Leadfeeder is a powerful resource for enhancing a central element of any business development efforts — lead generation The platform helps you identify high-potential leads by automatically analyzing your website traffic.
The software removes ISP traffic to pin down visitors' companies and gauge interest. It also lets you create behavioral and demographic filters for better-informed, more productive lead segmentation.
Successful business development often leans, in large part, on your ability to generate high-quality leads — so if you're interested in effectively sourcing those contacts, you'll need to invest in some sort of lead generation software. Leadfeeder is as good a place as any to start.
Best for Businesses Looking for a Free Way to Source Leads
LinkedIn is one of the most prominent, practical, effective resources for certain key elements of the business development process — namely, prospecting. The value behind leveraging social media for top-of-funnel sales activities isn't exactly some well-kept secret.
Plenty of business development professionals already use channels like LinkedIn to source, screen, and connect with potential leads. Strides like scrolling through skill endorsements, using alumni searches, and engaging with users who have looked at your posts are all excellent ways to find interested prospects and enhance your business development efforts.
Business Development Helps You Grow Better
Business development is a crucial part of any successful company. It’s how you determine the best ways to boost revenue, identify your ideal prospects, generate more leads, and close more deals.
Think about how you can make a strong business development plan and ensure you have the right group of business development reps so you can begin growing your business today.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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What is business development? Strategy, plan, and skills
Understand business development so you know what your bd department does and how to best use their skills..
By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer
Last updated January 11, 2023
- Sales strategy
Anyone working in business development knows that it can be tough to explain. If someone asks you what you do for a living and you say, “Business development” or “biz dev,” you’ll probably get a quizzical look.
So if you don’t have a thorough grasp of what business development is, don’t worry—you’re not alone. The best way to understand biz dev is to break it into clear pieces.
Keep reading to explore business development in all its facets, including how to create a business development strategy.
- Business development definition
- Biz dev strategy overview
Business development definition and variations
Business development (BD) is a strategy used to find new prospects and nurture them to help drive business growth.
According to Forbes , business development is “the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.” That’s a simplified definition, and it still faces the hurdle of trying to encompass the massive range of responsibilities that go into BD. Every effort involved in business development is an activity that helps make a business better. But one could argue that that definition describes every action of every employee.
So, what makes business development different?
The easiest way to understand BD is to look at it as the umbrella that works to improve all other departments. Though BD isn’t sales, it helps improve sales; it’s not marketing, but it improves marketing.
Sales vs. business development
When it comes to sales development , there’s a more significant focus on researching and identifying leads and pushing them through the sales process to close a deal.
Business development involves finding new ways to grow and forming partnerships that can help open doors to fresh markets and opportunities.
What is new business development?
New business development means an existing company is developing a plan to introduce a new product or service under a new business model in a relatively unknown market. It’s aligned with business development because it seeks to expand and generate more revenue for the company. It has its own title because it can be a radical and risky approach.
Unlike normal business development, new business development takes the company outside its comfort zone and tries a tactic the company hasn’t previously attempted.
Example: A sit-down restaurant that exclusively serves dine-in guests employs new business development when it starts offering delivery or partners with a food delivery service like Grubhub.
Business development representatives and their roles
Employees who work for your biz dev department are called business development representatives , or BDRs.
BDRs work with nearly all your departments as they search for and implement new strategies, targets, prospects, and tactics for your company. Since BDRs work with many people and have varied skill sets, they need to come to the table with specific experiences and qualities.
Given the wide scope of responsibilities, it’s impossible to list all the activities that go into business development. That said, here are the key tasks your BD team will likely focus on:
- Researching industry trends, company history, competitors, and prospects
- Stakeholder mapping
- Identifying growth opportunities
- Brainstorming strategies
- Lead generation and qualification
- Cross-departmental project management
- Partnership management
- Data analysis
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Business development strategy overview: How to create one in 10 steps
BD activities revolve around implementing a business development strategy. But how do you create that strategy?
All BD strategies begin with a plan and goals—start developing your own business development strategy by following the steps below:
1. Craft an elevator pitch
You need a concise 30-second pitch for any plan, including a BD plan. Want to go the extra mile? Craft several sales pitches and see which ones are most effective. You’ll be able to pitch while simultaneously conducting market research.
An elevator pitch summarizes what your business does, who you serve, and how your business differs from competitors. The goal of your elevator pitch is to open up the conversation about how you can serve your customers. When crafting your pitch, here are some best practices to follow:
- Use clear language
- Be specific
- Include a call to action
2. List your SMART goals
The SMART system is a great tool for business development goals. SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For example, a good SMART goal for a business development strategy could be:
“I will aim to improve first-response time for customer issues by increasing the number of customer service staff from 10 to 15 people in the next three quarters.”
By following the SMART system, you’ll keep your goals aligned with those of other departments and ensure they’re achievable with your current resources.
3. Perform a SWOT analysis
SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s an effective tool for business development because it helps you pinpoint your growth areas. The best way to use SWOT is to pick a specific aspect of your business to analyze. When conducting a SWOT analysis, keep these questions in mind:
- What needs do our services/products solve for a customer?
- What is our value proposition?
- Are there any obstacles in the way of achieving goals?
You can also pair this with a positioning statement to help guide your analysis.
Example: If you’re looking to launch a new product, you can look at what your company does well, what it does poorly, where it might be missing opportunities, and what other companies might be doing better.
4. Define your audience
Next, define your target audience—this can help you determine who you want to attract as potential new clients. While you want to get specific about who to target, avoid getting so specific that you run out of prospects. You can do this by:
- Analyzing competitors
- Creating personas
- Identifying industry trends
5. Conduct market research
Perform research to determine who your competitors are and what your customers want and need. You should know your customers’ problems and how you can solve them.
You can gain valuable insights into your audience’s needs through customer surveys . Eighty percent of companies that see year-over-year growth use surveys to collect customer experience data. Here are tips for creating a survey:
- Determine the goal of your survey
- Make sure your questions are unbiased
- Send surveys through relevant channels
- Keep them short and to the point
6. State your KPIs
To evaluate your plan’s success, you need to identify measurable data points through which you can document positive (or negative) outcomes. You can do this through key performance indicators ( KPIs ).
Depending on what you’re assessing, these KPIs can range from revenue changes to leads and conversion rates. The important thing is that you choose specific KPIs to complement your plan. Some biz dev KPIs include:
- Opportunities created
- Proposals sent
- Sales activities performed
- Client acquisition rate
- Deals closed
7. Plan a budget
Possibly the most important aspect of your plan is your budget . Your company must be able to afford your plan before approving it and starting implementation.
Keep your proposed budget realistic, but don’t be afraid to push. After all, if your plan works, you should be able to make that money back. Be sure to include these elements in your business budget:
- Balance sheet
- Cash flow statement
- Income statement
8. Focus on strong customer service
High-quality customer service should be top of mind—it could be the difference between a customer choosing you over a competitor.
Maintain good customer support with existing customers, too, to ensure you build a lasting relationship with them. Plus, if they continually have positive experiences with your team, they may refer other contacts to your business.
9. Incorporate a sales plan
A business development strategy isn’t whole without a sales plan . A sales plan helps outline your sales strategy and includes:
- Your company goals and objectives
- A strategy on how to achieve those goals
- Team roles and responsibilities
- Performance monitoring and benchmarks
Although this is centered around the sales team, it can provide your biz dev team with helpful insights.
10. Implement a process
Once you have a solid plan, implementation ideally becomes a mere matter of assigning and supervising. The steps for implementation are going to vary based on your plan’s parameters, but here are a few things to keep in mind when you launch:
- Hold regular meetings: Lead cross-departmental status meetings to keep everyone on the same page.
- Streamline communication: Centralize communication and simplify data access with appropriate software, including lead generation software and sales force automation (SFA) .
- Don’t rush it: Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Business development is about long-term growth, so look at trends rather than sweating over the roller-coaster of monthly numbers.
- Ensure your BD plan aligns with individual department plans: Sales managers are also responsible for setting goals for their team, and those goals are just as important as yours. Clear communication and SFA software can ensure your goals aren’t working against each other.
Use a CRM to align your business development plans
Business development is all about facilitating communication between departments to achieve new business goals. The best way to align your company with a unified vision is through a CRM.
With a simple CRM like Zendesk Sell , communication between your business development team and all other departments becomes effortless. Plans can move and adjust in real time in response to everything from marketing clicks to sales tracking . (If you’re new to the CRM world, we’re happy to walk you through it with our CRM software explainer .)
Your BD team already has a thousand things to juggle every day, so why make their lives harder? Request a demo of Zendesk Sell today to keep your biz dev team—and your business—ahead of the competition.
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Planning Permit or Entitlement Application Process
Start your Planning Permit or Entitlement in three steps!
- Read through the Application Submittal Requirements including plan set and fee requirements below based on application type.
- For instructions on how to register and use the permitting online portal, please review the user guide .
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Provide 1 electronic PDF copy of the appropriate checklist below. Download and include as a part of your application submittal.
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- Approved development trees.
- A private tree which has a trunk with a diameter of thirty-eight (38) inches or more measured at fifty-four (54) inches above natural grade.
- A multibranched private tree which has major branches below fifty-four (54) inches above the natural grade with a diameter of thirty-eight (38) inches or more measured just below the first major trunk fork.
Tree Removal Permit Submittal Requirements:
- A drawing outlining the location of the tree(s) and proposed tree replacements;
- A written explanation of why the tree(s) should be removed;
- An arborist report from an arborist certified by the ISA;
- Signature of the property owner and/or homeowner’s association (where applicable) with proof of a vote of the homeowner’s association;
- Photograph(s) of the tree(s);
- Permit fee, where applicable; and
- Other information deemed necessary by the Department of Community Development to evaluate the tree removal request.
- SB 330 (Housing Crisis Act of 2019) - Preliminary Application Form
- SB 9 (The California HOME Act) - Eligibility Checklist and Application Form
Planning Application Fees
Includes submittal fees based on application type from Planning and other City Departments related to Planning Applications. Some of the fees listed may be invoiced later if determined necessary through the course of the planning review process.
Other City Permits and Fees
Includes fees that may be relevant at different stages of a project. Other than Planning fee schedule, the other city permit fees listed are not assessed at Planning Application submittal stage.
- Review materials
- Planning staff meets with applicant (if necessary)
- Reference General Plan, Zoning Code, etc. to ensure compliance
- Identify potential issues with application and/or permit, working with applicant to resolve any issues
- Schedule applicable board/commission/Council meetings
- Application/permit decision made
- Public hearing (if applicable)
- Architectural Review Process Outline
- Driveway Triangle of Safety
- Project Clearance Committee Submittal Checklist
- Climate Action Plan Compliance Checklist
- Public Outreach Policy
- Preferred Environmental Consultant List
- Regulations Covering Erection of Fences
- SB 330 Preliminary Application Form
- ADU and JADU Handout
What are the 7 steps of a business plan? The seven steps to writing a business plan include: 1. Write a brief executive summary. 2. Describe your products and services. 3. Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis. 4. Describe your marketing and sales strategy. 5. Outline your organizational structure and ...
A business development plan is a document put together by the business owner with the aim to grow and improve their business. The plan will set goals for growth and explain how you will achieve them. A business development strategy can have a short-term or long-term focus, or both.
A business development plan sets goals for growth and explains how you will achieve them. It can have a short-term or long-term focus. Review and revise your plan as often as you can. And keep building on it as your business evolves. How to write a business development plan
Here are eight steps for creating an effective business development strategy to gain new customers: 1. Define the audience In this first step, define the target audience that you want to reach with a business development strategy.
The best way to accomplish any business or personal goal is to write out every possible step it takes to achieve the goal. Then, order those steps by what needs to happen first. Some steps may ...
Step 1: Organize your business development plan I'm a fan of organizing information in a structured, intuitive, and efficient way. Although it may sound basic, the first thing you should think about is to have a proper file you can consult on a daily basis. It doesn't have to contain every piece of information.
1. Research If your company is going to run a viable business plan and investors are going to put their money into it, your information has to be top notch. And that includes knowing every topic involved, not just your internal operations. Research and critical analysis are key to developing and communicating a business plan properly.
How to Create a Business Development Plan? Follow these Steps! Step 1. Revisit your Vision When you started your business, you probably asked yourself the "Where do you see yourself a year from now?" question. Well, the business development plan starts right there! This is the focal point for all your inspiration.
1. Executive Summary 2. Market Analysis 3. Financial Projections 4. Organizational Structure 5. Products or Services Summary 1. Executive Summary The executive summary is the first part of your business plan. This is where you capture the reader's attention be explaining the specifics of your business. What is the name? What will you be doing?
A business action plan is a brief overview of the goals and vision you have set for your business. It consists of a road map, strategies, and processes to achieve those goals. An effective business plan action creates small steps towards achieving long-term business goals, considering all possible challenges and benefits of the vision. Think of ...
The business plan process includes 6 steps as follows: Do Your Research Strategize Calculate Your Financial Forecast Draft Your Plan Revise & Proofread Nail the Business Plan Presentation We've provided more detail for each of these key steps below. 1. Do Your Research
We discuss nine components of a model business plan here: Key partnerships Note the other businesses or services you'll work with to run your business. Think about suppliers, manufacturers, subcontractors, and similar strategic partners. Key activities List the ways your business will gain a competitive advantage.
Business Development Checklist: Outline Your Goals. Let's say your goal is to make $5 million this year. That's a great goal, but what does it really mean? You, as the landscape company owner, may know what steps are required to meet that goal, but often other employees in your company won't be able to understand the breakdown.
A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction.
A business plan is a document that outlines your business's financial goals and explains how you'll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business's next...
A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. ... Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan. Define your target audience; Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your "best-fit ...
How to Do Business Development Conduct extensive market research. Raise visibility and awareness. Promote thought leadership. Conduct outreach. Qualify leads to pass off to sales. Provide exemplary customer service. Develop sales content from success stories. 1. Conduct extensive market research.
All BD strategies begin with a plan and goals—start developing your own business development strategy by following the steps below: 1. Craft an elevator pitch You need a concise 30-second pitch for any plan, including a BD plan. Want to go the extra mile? Craft several sales pitches and see which ones are most effective.
Write your business plan; Calculate your startup costs; Establish business credit; Fund your business; Buy an existing business or franchise; Launch your business. Pick your business location; Choose a business structure; Choose your business name; Register your business; Get federal and state tax ID numbers; Apply for licenses and permits ...
Start your Planning Permit or Entitlement in three steps! Read through the Application Submittal Requirements including plan set and fee requirements below based on application type. Register for the Permitting Online Portal . For instructions on how to register and use the permitting online portal, please review the user guide.
Review the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) construction requirements, and obtain an HCD Insignia (916-255-2501) prior to the final inspection. Consult with local fire and city jurisdictions (cities where you plan to operate) regarding approved generators and generator location(s).
professional development calls for adequate support structures and opportunities for teachers to select, plan, carry out, and evaluate the professional development activities in which they are involved. When teachers have the chance to participate collegially and collaboratively in the creation and implementation of professional development